[20:17] <+RobHicks> My name is Rob Hicks, from Midnight Campaign games. We are a (very) small publishing company for fantasy board and card games based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.
[20:18] <+RobHicks> We did a family card game a few years back called Goblin’s Breakfast, which was successful via kickstarter, and have been working on a tabletop roleplaying game for a few years called Mayhem.
[20:19] <+RobHicks> The game is a sword and sorcery rpg focusing on tight tactical action, vivid characters, and creative storytelling.
[20:19] <+RobHicks> We launched a kickstarter for the project early this month and raised some money, but not enough to build the game into the scale that we were looking for, and so are restructuring the project and relaunching again sometime in late August.
[20:20] <+RobHicks> And that’s the very short version. I’m happy to go into more specific detail on different components for the game and why this particular project is worth looking into, but there is a lot to it, so I am happy to follow your lead on what you might be looking for.
[20:21] <+RobHicks> And am very grateful for the opportunity to come and talk a little. (Done.)
[20:21] <~Dan> Thanks, RobHicks! The floor is open to questions!
[20:22] <~Dan> You say it’s a sword and sorcery game… What does that mean to you?
[20:23] <+RobHicks> Fantasy is a pretty broad genre. High fatasy, dark fantasy, and sword & sorcery are a few examples of sub-genres.
[20:23] <+RobHicks> We cut our teeth on dnd, like very many players,
[20:24] <+RobHicks> but over time found some limitations with the available systems as we played through the various iterations.
[20:24] <+RobHicks> As an example, we had many players who would look through the monster manual and point at various characters and say “I want to play THAT.”
[20:25] <+RobHicks> And while that was available, the rules to do so ended up being restrictive or so complicated that it was difficult for both the players and the GM to pull off.
[20:25] <+RobHicks> So we wanted to loosen up the restrictions and build from archetypes that were a little more bombastic than standard tolkein tropes.
[20:26] <+RobHicks> Building in the divine and demonic characters, the animal races, undead player options, etctera.
[20:27] <+RobHicks> Basically giving players options that aren’t available in more high fantasy games.
[20:27] <~Dan> When I think “sword and sorcery”, I think settings in which sorcery is slow but powerful and sorcerers tend to be the bad guys. Is that the case in Mayhem?
[20:28] <+RobHicks> Good and Evil are more flavors than restrictions in the Mayhem system.
[20:29] <+RobHicks> For example, one of the base race/talent options in the main book is the Liche. They feed on the souls of the dead and dying to fuel their magics. They have goals and aspirations just like anyone else, and players enjoy playing characters like that sometimes.
[20:29] <+RobHicks> A player group can find ways to make a traditionally good character like a Divine Blade or Aesir work with them,
[20:30] <+RobHicks> and sometimes the contrast can make not only for interesting character interactions, but also add to the story depth.
[20:31] <+RobHicks> In terms of speed and power, we use a timing system where faster actions hit faster and trigger more often, while slower actions hit quite a bit harder.
[20:31] <+RobHicks> So a spellcaster could focus on faster magics, chipping away, or big nuke effects.
[20:31] <+RobHicks> While a more martially driven character could go for faster attacks via daggers, or slow attacks with a heavy maul or a greatsword.
[20:32] <+RobHicks> In either case, with character archetypes or combat styles, the focus is on big action, fun archetypes, and telling the story in ways that highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each character.
[20:32] <+RobHicks> Be they moral or tactical.
[20:33] * ~Dan nods
[20:34] <+xyphoid> what was your last KS?
[20:34] <~Dan> You touched on this, but what character types are available to play?
[20:35] <+RobHicks> The main categories for the first volume are The Animus races, built on anthropomorphic animal archetypes, divine characters from both eastern and western mythologies, such as the Aeon (christian angelic figure,) norse Aesir and Vanir, (asgardian or valkyrie,) The demonic races, like the red-skinned horned demon, (think hellboy,) the winged fiends,
[20:36] <+RobHicks> shapeshifters, like the lycanthropes, the kitsune or changeling, or the undead like the liche or other vampiric archetypes.
[20:36] <+RobHicks> I highlight those kinds of characters because they are recognizeable, but many if not most of the specific races, curses and talents are unique to the game system,
[20:37] <+RobHicks> which is a little harder to explain in short time.
[20:37] <+RobHicks> There are about 25 race/curse/talents in the first volume. We have content for a second volume, which would include about 50 more options along those lines, which is part of why our initial funding goal was so ambitious.
[20:38] <+RobHicks> Unfortunately we didn’t fund at that level and so will have to scale some of that content back, but we have a lot to work with as we move forward.
[20:38] <~Dan> Hmm. It’s a shame that last night’s visitor isn’t here tonight. He was eager for a game in which he could play a vampire type without guilt.
[20:38] <+RobHicks> Other archetypes from the second volume were draconic characters, psychic characters, The Kami as a counterpoint to the Fae, and expansions to the previously mentioned groups.
[20:39] <+RobHicks> The first book also has the Fae, which are built more on the celtic fae than the Tolkein elven tropes,
[20:39] <+RobHicks> driad, naiad, sylph, etc.
[20:39] <+RobHicks> Forgot that one.
[20:39] <+RobHicks> Once people choose a race/curse/talent as a base, they can build from that archetype by fleshing out the character’s skills and abilities.
[20:39] * ~Dan nods
[20:39] <+RobHicks> Which include weapon groups, elemental or arcane magics, and others.
[20:39] <~Dan> Speaking of which, do you have a character sheet that we can see?
[20:40] <+RobHicks> Sure.
[20:40] <+RobHicks> (Link: http://www.midnightcampaign.com/CHARACTER_SHEET.pdf)http://www.midnightcampaign.com/CHARACTER_SHEET.pdf
[20:40] <+RobHicks> I pulled that link from the Kickstarter page from the campaign we launched earlier this month.
[20:40] <+RobHicks> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1796808333/the-mayhem-roleplaying-game/description)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1796808333/the-mayhem-roleplaying-game/description
[20:41] <+RobHicks> There are a number of promotional materials there, including a full B/W copy of the first book (in beta form, really,) and a few other resources to see what the game actually looks and plays like.
[20:41] <+RobHicks> As well as a few video links that highlight the different mechanics that make the game shine.
[20:41] * ~Dan nods
[20:41] <+RobHicks> Like I said, there is a lot to cover in a brief interview.
[20:41] <~Dan> Sure.
[20:41] <~Dan> It’s an attribute + skill core mechanic, I take it?
[20:42] <+RobHicks> Yes, but a little different than most.
[20:42] <~Dan> How so?
[20:42] <+RobHicks> We use what we call the Skill Die system, where each attribute has a specific die associated with it.
[20:42] <+RobHicks> Using a skill for that attribute, players roll that die and add ranks and any relative bonuses.
[20:42] <+RobHicks> But bonuses are fairly limited.
[20:43] <+RobHicks> This does three things. First off, the statistical difference between a d8 and a d10 is roughly a +1. (4.5 vs 5.5 average rolls)
[20:43] <+RobHicks> Which means that a STR of 8 rolls a d8, while an STR of 10 rolls a d10.
[20:43] <+RobHicks> And that +1 bonus that would normally be applied in an attribute + skill system gets built into the dice instead of added manually.
[20:44] <~Dan> Is it possible to have a STR of 9?
[20:44] <+RobHicks> By doing that and simplifying the bonus structure, the die system runs smoothly, with less calculation.
[20:44] <+RobHicks> Yes. It just rounds down to the nearest even number.
[20:44] <~Dan> So what’s the advantage of 9 over 8?
[20:44] <+RobHicks> A couple of things.
[20:45] <+RobHicks> There are abilities and weapons that are available based on attribute reqs.
[20:45] <+RobHicks> The other advantage of that kind of a process is that every character has a distribution of attributes ranging from 5 to 12 start, dice ranging from d4 to d12,
[20:45] <+RobHicks> which means every character has strengths and weaknesses, creating a well-rounded distribution.
[20:46] <+RobHicks> Also, rolling different dice feels very different. The tone and style of rolling a d6 vs a d10 feels very different, and allows gameplay to really highlight character strengths.
[20:46] <+RobHicks> And just as important, highlight their weaknesses.
[20:47] * ~Dan nods
[20:47] <+RobHicks> Some other mechanics scale based on character stats. Death and Consciousness limits on End/Wil, for example, and some elements of the magic and charisma-driven systems also hang on Int, Intuition, Charisma and Cunning, for example.
[20:47] <~Dan> How does combat work?
[20:48] <+RobHicks> The core system is built on skill vs skill checks, but there is a lot of counterpoint to them.
[20:48] <+RobHicks> And the timing adds a lot of strategy without bogging things down.
[20:49] <+RobHicks> The basic melee attack is a STR skill, opposeed by either Parry or Dodge, with Dodge at a disadvantage. Ranged attacks like Thrown and Shot are opposed inversely, Dodge or Parry, with Parry at a disadvantage.
[20:49] <+RobHicks> Magic and supernatural character abilities are also sometimes resisted by the Grit and Autonomy skills.
[20:49] <+RobHicks> Creating an engine where character strengths and weaknesses can be in very different arenas and players have a variety of competing strategies that each hold weight.
[20:50] * ~Dan nods
[20:50] <+RobHicks> Even Charisma and Cunning can affect combat, through lateral abilities and other creative applications.
[20:50] <~Dan> How do weapons and armor work mechanically?
[20:50] <+RobHicks> The core initiative system is built on timing, as I mentioned above. We use a combat clock mechanic, where faster actions trigger faster and more often, then move characters back a few spaces on the initiative track,
[20:50] <+RobHicks> while heavier attacks hit much harder, but delay characters further back on initiative.
[20:51] <+xyphoid> so like exalted2’s battlewheel?
[20:51] <+RobHicks> Not exactly, but with some similar design goals.
[20:52] <+xyphoid> the biggest issue that had was that that depending on your weapon you could be sitting at the table waiting for ages while Mister Jadeclaw rolled dice a bunch of times – do you address that?
[20:52] <+RobHicks> First off, the skill die system is set up to limit calculations and multiple rolls. Turns need to be fast.
[20:52] <+RobHicks> Second, the game favors some team-attack strategies, and for enemy characters there are rules for mob attacks, where multiple enemies can act simultaneously.
[20:53] <+RobHicks> I’ve run conventions with as many as 9 players without it bogging down or slowing people’s turns too much.
[20:53] <+RobHicks> Third, dice pool systems flat slow games down.
[20:53] <+RobHicks> There are some great dice-pool mechanics out there,
[20:53] <+RobHicks> and people capable of running them quickly,
[20:54] <+RobHicks> but a focus on fast action, in the design goals of this specific game, means building mechanics that play quickly, without losing the tactical depth that many
[20:54] <+RobHicks> action players really enjoy.
[20:55] * ~Dan nods
[20:55] <+RobHicks> To answer a previous question, weapons have different stats based on melee and parry advantages, action speed, crit range, and spacial distance.
[20:55] <+RobHicks> As well as different sets of weapon techniques for different types of weapons
[20:55] <~Dan> How is weapon damage rated?
[20:55] <+RobHicks> A knife fighter functions very, very differently than a swordsman or a heavy weapons specialist.
[20:56] <+RobHicks> Based on those different stats, we balanced weapons out for the different strengths and weaknesses.
[20:56] <+RobHicks> Some characters hit harder, some are faster, some are accurate, some more defensive.
[20:56] <+RobHicks> It’s a complicated calculation for balance, but we were happy with the end result.
[20:56] <+RobHicks> The smallest weapons do d6 damage or so with faster speed, more accuracy, or easier crits,
[20:57] <+RobHicks> where the heaviest can swing much harder, using a d10 or even as high as 3d8,
[20:58] <+RobHicks> but MUCH more slowly, with weaker accuracy and defensive penalty.
[20:58] <+RobHicks> In either case, there is good reason to use different weapons in different situations, without characters feeling left behind for choosing a strategy that they like thematically,
[20:58] <~Dan> (Howdy, Ximni!)
[20:59] <+RobHicks> Armor is a flat DR mechanic, but very conservative.
[20:59] <+RobHicks> Heavier armors will really slow a character down, but can be counterbalanced by investing in skills and abilities to advantage those players.
[21:00] <+RobHicks> The book has armor values listed from essentially 1-4, with some methods of stacking to get as high as 6 in late game. But in playtesting we are likely trimming that down to a max of 3-4.
[21:01] <+RobHicks> As an example, a small, light sword that attacks often with good accuracy and good crit will generally do a little more damage overall than heavy weapons, but vs armor, the heavier weapons will perform better in the long-run.
[21:01] <+RobHicks> The differences are minor, but can highlight varying strategies in different situations.
[21:02] <~Dan> Right, that’s cool.
[21:02] <+RobHicks> Especially when combined with weapon techniques for the different groups.
[21:04] <~Dan> How does magic work?
[21:04] <+RobHicks> The fist volume is the elemental system. There are six schools of elemental magics, fire, ice, air, earth, plant and shadow, in opposing archetypes.
[21:05] <+RobHicks> All six have offensive abilities that are generally competitive, and each has a variety of other kinds of effects that they can produce unique to that specific school.
[21:05] <~Dan> (wb, NathanTucker!)
[21:05] <+RobHicks> Plant magics get some healing, ice and earth use elemental barriers,
[21:05] <+RobHicks> wind has some movement effects, and shadow has some invisibility, as examples.
[21:05] <~Dan> Interesting that you chose “ice” instead of “water”
[21:06] <+RobHicks> The term for the school is cryomancy, but it would include ice and water.
[21:06] * ~Dan nods
[21:06] <+RobHicks> There is quite a bit more depth in the options than i am explaining here, but trying to keep it short or I go on longer tirades. =]
[21:06] <~Dan> Understood. 🙂
[21:06] <+RobHicks> The elemental skills also include some flexibility.
[21:06] <+NathanTucker> Thanks, Dan. Just quickly passing through. Hi there to Rob and everyone rocking the chat tonight.
[21:07] <+RobHicks> Hi!
[21:07] <+RobHicks> The elemental skills also include some flexibility. Spells provide a baseline to be used for specific mechanics,
[21:07] <~Dan> NathanTucker is tomorrow’s Q&A guest. 🙂
[21:07] <+RobHicks> but the system is meant to be used with creativity. If players want to use their ice magics to do something specific, they should have the creative opportunity to do so.
[21:08] <+RobHicks> As a limiting factor for magic, we use what we call feedback.
[21:08] <~Dan> What are the limits on spellcasting? Power points? Spells-per-day? Fatigue?
[21:08] <+RobHicks> Casting spells incurs a sort of mental feedback, that counts up like an overheat kind of a system.
[21:08] <+RobHicks> Bigger spells incur more feedback.
[21:08] * ~Dan nods
[21:09] <+RobHicks> When players are filled up, they can either take a concentrate action to “cool down,” or keep casting, to risk damage.
[21:09] <+RobHicks> It becomes a push your luck mechanic, for testing characters limits.
[21:09] <~Dan> I like that.
[21:09] <+RobHicks> The higher a player’s elemental skill, the easier spells get to cast, and bigger effects become more reachable.
[21:09] * ~Dan nods
[21:10] <+RobHicks> Players with more willpower, for example, have bigger tracks for feedback, and so have higher limits.
[21:10] <~Dan> How powerful does magic get on the high end?
[21:10] <+RobHicks> It can get pretty powerful, and pretty risky, but not game-breakingly so.
[21:10] <+RobHicks> And melee attacks carry their own risks and rewards.
[21:11] <+RobHicks> A 3d8 damage maul can still hit pretty hard.
[21:11] <+RobHicks> And by focusing their attributes and skills on improving their magics, players may also neglect some of their defenses.
[21:11] * ~Dan nods
[21:11] <+NathanTucker> Rob, I’m a fan of giving players the option to gather components and trophies. If we haven’t already covered it in the chat, what can you tell us about your crafting system?
[21:11] <+RobHicks> Awesome.
[21:12] <+RobHicks> So first of all, the third volume was set up to be a creature compendium, with a crafting and artifact/magic item system built into it.
[21:12] <+RobHicks> Sadly we will have to scale back on that a little, but we are still going to be including some of those resources in the next campaign.
[21:13] <+RobHicks> The CC will be divided by environmental regions. Forest, caves, ruins, desert, etc.
[21:13] <+RobHicks> Monsters in that book are then ranked from 1 to 20, so finding a specific challenge is as easy as looking through the book, finding where your characters are,
[21:13] <+RobHicks> and what level challenges you can go up against.
[21:13] <+RobHicks> Creatures also have a list of components that can be collected from them, including the skills necessary to do so.
[21:14] <+RobHicks> Hunting an Asmodean Spined Viper from the forest region means you could extract the venom.
[21:14] <+RobHicks> Then either sell the components in an economy built into the game,
[21:14] <+RobHicks> or use it to make some fancy poison daggers.
[21:14] <+RobHicks> It means that the game can be played along traditional story modules and GM-led adventures,
[21:15] <+RobHicks> but along the way it can also be played as a sort of exploration adventure, fueled by treasure-hunting and monster-slaying.
[21:16] <+RobHicks> It makes the game very easy to GM, because many of the goals and direction are fueled by the players and the system.
[21:16] <+RobHicks> The Campaign for August will include the forest environment specifically, and more if we can fund enough.
[21:17] <+RobHicks> I’d like to ultimately do a CC with at least 10 environments.
[21:18] * ~Dan nods
[21:18] <~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:19] <+NathanTucker> Sounds great, Rob.
[21:19] <+RobHicks> Reading back a bit, I’d like to add for the magic balance that the strategies really shine when players use their skills and abilities to complement one another. There are spells that function as sort of dual-techs, like old-school chrono trigger.
[21:19] <+RobHicks> The style of gameplay is meant to highlight the awesome things that characters can do, but the most awesome things are often things that highlight co-operation between players.
[21:20] <+RobHicks> That can help bridge some of the disparity in character archetypes as well, when characters with different goals or ideals work together.
[21:20] <+RobHicks> That covers a lot of it. We worked really hard to strike a balance in elegant game mechanics that run quickly, but with vibrant archetypes and tactical depth.
[21:21] <+NathanTucker> Fantastic, I look forward to seeing the campaign launch. From a crowd-sourcing perspective, for the audience out there, what have you learnt from the last kickstarter and what pieces of wisdom can you pass on to people wanting to look at kickstarting their own products?
[21:21] * ~Dan nods
[21:21] <+RobHicks> There are other facets to characters as well, outside of combat. Charisma, Intuition, and Cunning abilities have a lot of application both inside and outside of the game.
[21:21] <+RobHicks> Of combat.
[21:21] <+RobHicks> As for the kickstarter, we were a little ambitious with what we wanted to produce, and overestimated our reach.
[21:22] <+RobHicks> We have run successful campaigns in the past, but for a family card game, as I mentioned before.
[21:22] <+RobHicks> Roleplaying games are a little tighter audience, so we had to scale back a bit. It’s a tougher market.
[21:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, Jezibel1!)
[21:22] <+RobHicks> Hi!
[21:22] <+Jezibel1> Hi.
[21:22] <+RobHicks> For the next campaign we are focusing on PDF first, and applying the print option as a stretch goal. That way we can set our goal a lot lower, (3,000 instead of 35,000)
[21:23] <~Dan> Probably a very good idea.
[21:23] <+RobHicks> And if we get the support we are looking for can start unlocking the content that we REALLY want to do.
[21:23] <+RobHicks> In our defense, our last campaign raised just shy of 30,000, so we set that goal based on previous success.
[21:23] <+RobHicks> But the shift to a tighter market niche didn’t allow us to quite compete that way.
[21:24] <~Dan> Right, it was an understandable goal.
[21:24] <+RobHicks> But we are really dedicated to this project, and are happy to scale back to make it work.
[21:24] <+NathanTucker> That sounds like a solid strategy, Rob. Also gives you a great point to build upon with the next campaign.
[21:24] <+RobHicks> Yeah, we could do about 6 campaigns at the scale of the one we are planning, and not run out of content.
[21:24] <+RobHicks> The first campaign for Mayhem was cancelled after about 10 days, with about 3,000 raised.
[21:25] <+RobHicks> I’m pretty confident we will fund at that level, and then start producing content consistently.
[21:25] * ~Dan nods
[21:25] <+NathanTucker> Thanks guys, I better get back to the grind. Rob, I look forward to seeing the launch of the Mayhem campaign 🙂
[21:25] <~Dan> Take care, NathanTucker!
[21:25] <+RobHicks> Thanks! Have a good evening!
[21:25] <+RobHicks> We also made the mistake of launching over the 4th of July weekend, which was a mistake. I was hoping to launch early enough in the month to avoid competing with some of the big projects releasing this month and over gencon.
[21:26] <~Dan> Oh, yeah, good point.
[21:26] <+RobHicks> Which is why for a relaunch we will be waiting until later in August. July/August are big months for KS.
[21:26] * ~Dan nods
[21:27] <~Dan> Thanks very much for joining us, RobHicks!
[21:27] <+RobHicks> As a final thing, if people like what they’ve heard, there is nothing stopping them from downloading the first book in PDF form in black and white for free.
[21:27] <+RobHicks> The full game is playable and free.
[21:27] <~Dan> Got the link for that handy?
[21:27] <+RobHicks> Yep.
[21:27] <+RobHicks> (Link: http://www.midnightcampaign.com/Mayhem_Volume_1_GRAY.pdf)http://www.midnightcampaign.com/Mayhem_Volume_1_GRAY.pdf
[21:27] <~Dan> Very cool.
[21:28] <~Dan> Speaking of links, my tip jar and Patreon link are here: (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/
[21:28] <+RobHicks> The first volume needs some editing, and we have a lot of content we’d like to add, including the extra races, arcane magic system, ch’i martial arts, monster manual, and several adventure modules.
[21:28] <~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!
[21:28] <+RobHicks> as well as flat plastic minis.
[21:28] <+RobHicks> Thanks!
[21:28] <+RobHicks> And thanks again for having us.