In this Kickstarter spotlight I interview Lucas Curell, Managing Partner at Embers Design Studios. Curell's Kickstarter is currently funded at $892, well over its $500 goal with 24 days to go.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your Kickstarter.
Lucas Curell (LC): The Book of Terniel is a Pathfinder compatible adventure for 1st-level characters that follows the PCs in their attempt to recover the stolen Book of Terniel. There are three acts in the adventure, each with a distinct playstyle. In the first things are centered in the village of Erien with a heavy focus on roleplaying. During this stage the PCs learn about the book and who took it before heading out for some action. As the second act opens play shifts to sandbox exploration and finds the PCs exploring a dark bog where they can visit many different sites and learn about their enemy. Finally, in the last act they locate the thieves’ lair and must choose between diplomacy, stealth or conflict to recover the book from a superior foe.
MT: Tell us about your company.
LC: Embers Design Studios is a Michigan-based tabletop RPG startup founded in 2013. There are two of us behind the scenes here, myself and my partner Daniel. Our focus is on web and mobile tools for tabletop RPG games and creating exceptional content for those games. The City of Brass is our flagship product and it’s going to change the way we play tabletop RPGs.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model?
LC: It accelerates everything. There are all these support structures you can tap into that begin with the Kickstarter that go beyond financial support. In the few days our Kickstarter has been active every communication channel we have has exploded and people that might never have given us a second look are interested. Even this interview, for instance, is a direct result of the Kickstarter.
MT: Why should backers contribute to your Kickstarter? What sets it apart?
LC: 1-Story. The Book of Terniel tells an exciting story and it puts control in the hands of the players. Their choices begin when they align with one of the four factions that want the book and continue right through to the end where everything culminates in a dungeon that can be approached in many different ways – fighting, talking, stealth or some combination.
2-Art. We have amazing artwork by the likes of Stephen Rusk, Martin Paz Romero and Monica Doss. Artwork brings a project to life and while we already have a lot of it for The Book of Terniel we’d like to add in much more.
3-RPGcommons. Daniel and I are huge supporters of open gaming and that’s why we’ve decided to release the village of Erien and all the surrounding region under a Creative Commons 4 license. Other creators will be able to use this village for their own projects, personal or commercial. On a larger scale, we envision a day in the not-so-distant future when we as gamers come together to build an online repository of free-for-commercial use content that anyone can draw on for any game system they choose. Keep an eye on rpgcommons.org as that’s where we plan to put it all together.
MT: What stretch rewards are available?
LC: First up we have a unique site for the PCs to visit in their bog exploration. This will be written by Daniel Cannon of RootHome setting (http://www.roothomeworld.com). We’re likely to hit that one pretty quickly and move on to adding a player’s guide packed full of information about Erien, the people and the nearby lands.
Beyond those, which come pretty quickly following our initial funding goal we move to more artwork. More NPCs, more scenes, more hand drawn maps. The work our artists do is outstanding and I’m really hoping we can fill this adventure up with more of it.
Then if we make it to $5,000, in addition to more artwork we will also prepare a print version of the adventure and make it available to backers inside The City of Brass (when the system is ready). I’ve been running my playtest group using The City of Brass and having everything online and available on my phone, tablet or computer is awesome.
The last goal we have at the moment kicks in at $10,000 when we’ll add two more towns to what gets released under a Creative Commons license. Both of these cities are inside the bog. The goblin city of Muktarm makes its living off the backs of slug farmers and bog leech fisheries and the moguren (a new playable-race created for this adventure) village of Okarote is a strange place where sentient mushrooms live in a sort of communal hive. Of course we’ll also have a bunch more artwork at this level also.
MT: What do you think of the future of Pathfinder?
LC: Paizo has a strong community and a history of supporting open gaming plus a great game too! I think they have good times coming and I look forward to seeing where they take the Pathfinder RPG.
MT: What do you think of the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons?
LC: I enjoy it. I’m playing in a 5e game with Michael from The RPG Academy, but I don’t anticipate running it at my own table – at least for a while. The speed of combat and bounded accuracy are great and it was cool to throw a black dragon at my 2nd-level PCs back near the end of the playtest and watch them rally an entire village to fight it off. On the other hand, there are things I’m concerned about such as the preponderance of Advantage/Disadvantage (a mechanic I love but think it may be overused).
MT: What's next for your company?
LC: The City of Brass. A system designed to manage the mechanics of a tabletop RPG clearing the way for GMs and players alike to focus on what matters - playing the game. We’ve been in development for twelve months and are just about to move to beta. The app will ultimately include four systems – World Builder, Toolkit, Tabletop and Grid but we’re starting with just the first two.
MT: Will you be at Gen Con? Where?
LC: Just as visitors. Although we’ve both been playing D&D since the ‘80s this will be our first trip to Gen Con and we’re looking forward to it.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
MT: Anything else you'd like to share?
LC: Only that we appreciate everyone that has already chosen to support us. As newcomers to this industry they’re taking a risk on us and to have achieved our funding target three days out was awesome. We look forward to delivering an outstanding product and having a chance in the future to come back and talk about our next one.