The Obscure Game Fan Blues

First, a warning.  Welcome to my public grief counseling session.  If that doesn’t sound all that interesting to you, move along.  I won’t judge.  If you’re curious I might accidentally say something insightful, than by all means stick around.

Sunday came and went, and with it the Grand Tome of Adversaries kickstarter, just shy of $3k from its goal.  So that’s that.  On the bright side, those of you who are sick to death of seeing a link to the thing can breathe a sigh of relief.  On the other hand, what does it say about the game’s audience when it can’t muster enough support to publish a damn monster book?!

I’m no stranger to being in love with obscure, underrated, under appreciated, sometimes even openly mocked RPGs.  Dangerous Journeys came out just as I was becoming disheartened by AD&D.  Darkurthe Legends was my first (and only?) heartbreaker game.  TSR’s SAGA system (for Dragonlance 5th Age), with all its warts, was a joy to play, even though it felt like it was a litmus test for D&D fandom to mock the use of cards over dice (as though Castle Falkenstein had never existed).  Gygax finally came back with Lejendary Adventure and, while a tiny cabal of us embraced it, most people couldn’t help themselves from Jary Jyjax quotes or just impatiently asking when the man was going to get over himself and start writing AD&D mods again.  In fact, looking back on it, of all the games I’ve run regularly since…1993(?), the only of those that have enjoyed some mass success have been 7th Sea (now deceased) and Savage Worlds (still going strong)

So I suppose I could say I’m used to being a fan of RPGs with tiny niche followings, it can still be pretty damn discouraging sometimes.  It’s kinda like being the guy who likes Shasta cola (and I do like me some Shasta!).

But as I stand on the great wide expanse of my impending pity party, I have to ask myself, “why should I care?!”  Let’s take Black Vulmea (who’s fantastic site, Really Bad Eggs inspired this blog).  He’s probably one of a handful of people in the WORLD who is still playing Flashing Blades, and maybe one of three who still plays it regularly.  If there are more than a handful of people playing it, I suspect that other handful started playing because of Black Vulmea’s site and wiki.  And I suspect being in such small company doesn’t bother him a lick.  He just does his thing and is happy.  And if FGU made some aborted attempt at putting out an update or new material for the game, he’d probably just go back to what he was doing, with a spring in his step and a song on his lips.

Fuck it!  I’m getting on with my therapy session.  Now where was I…

Why is there even an expectation of a glossy hard cover monster book?  I’ll bet you can count the ones that exist that don’t have some version of “D&D” in the title and aren’t available off Lulu on one hand (yes, that includes Pathfinder or any version of D20/OGL/OSR).  It’s as though we have been programmed to base all of our expectations off (A)D&D.  Like we’ve forgotten that 99% of D&D’s contemporaries were boxed sets with two softcover, saddle-stitched books with some black and white artwork, that maybe amounted to 128 pages of material and some really cheap dice.

At least, that was the standard, until the 90’s came along and all those kids who’d been playing for years went to college, got their first Citibank credit card and started racking up debt as they expanded their RPG collection.  Stupid 90’s!

As with politics, sometimes it isn’t pretty to see how the sausage gets made.  Kickstarters and public play tests can give a skewed view of how the world of game design and publishing works.  As you might imagine, with two kids at home and a single income family, I’m not backing a lot of Kickstarters.  I expect that for every FATE or NUMENERA, the battlefield is littered with the corpses of unfunded Kickstarters.  And don’t get me started on the sad lot of the unfulfilled. Yes, all those Myth & Magic backers are crying me a river as I type this.  Where is that violin music coming from?  Oh.  Right.

So, in an attempt to steer the cycle of grief to its more positive end, here are a few observations:

  • A GM-centric book nets half the supporters of your Player-centric book.  Not too shabby.
  • Is a soft-cover, POD run really that undesirable when a hardcover to match the core so far out of reach?
  • Um…you run the game online, right Tom?  PDF FTW!
  • This may be a lesson to those Arcanis fans who complain about no monster book but are content to be spoon-fed adventure content from Organized Play.

As a final flair of the dramatic, I’ll leave you with a bit of blues from one of my other obscure, underrated, under appreciated loves (because I really need more excuses to talk about King’s X around here!)


2 thoughts on “The Obscure Game Fan Blues

  1. tydirium7

    I’m theorizing why they couldn’t raise $10k for this project:
    1. It wasn’t a bargain. When you support a kickstarter, you expect WIIFM? You were just pre-ordering a book.
    2. They had a lot of stuff out for 1e and people didn’t feel like investing in a new edition of the same old stuff.
    3. The “newness” and talk of this system has worn off; also being outshined by it’s brother system.
    4. The company’s presence and excitement about their own products has waned severely, both in posting and on the convention front. Unless you’re FFG, you can’t ignore your fans.




    1. blusponge Post author


      Not really trying to play armchair quarterback the failure of the Kickstarter. I’ve only backed 4 Kickstarters in my life, and two of them (both Savage Worlds) were pretty sure bets. Any one of your points sound reasonable. A lot of the stretch goals were tied up in converting old material to the new edition rather than creating new stuff, which could have had an effect. It could also be that Paradigm needs to get onboard with someone who really understands kickstarters, how they work and how to market them. I see a lot of campaign from much smaller companies that are far splashier. It could also be that the ecosphere they created with their OP operation isn’t that healthy since they moved away from d20 with Arcanis. I could speculate all day about any number of things, but the simple fact is I don’t really know. And beyond my enjoyment of the game, it really isn’t my business to know. But I do believe Paradigm’s core audience is kind of an odd duck, and they don’t always behave the way you expect or want them too.



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