Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into RPG design and what kind of projects have you been working on? What have been your best experiences?
Hi there! My name's Bradley Crouch. I own Interjection Games, purveyor of strange and interesting gaming products that strive to produce brand new experiences in an old medium. I was first introduced to the concept of the RPG by SquareSoft back in the golden age of JRPGs, then to the American RPG through none other than Baldur's Gate. As I went to a high school whose demographic really didn't go for that sort of thing: no chess club, a championship football team that actually had "tackle the other team's star after every play until you maim him" as a strategy, and the wrestlers went to state in stretch hummers, I had to wait until college for this seed to bloom in the tabletop gaming space.
In college, there was this interesting dichotomy. I loved tearing apart systems and rebuilding them. Still do. I had two Game Masters, and they both loved saying, "No." As both instances of "No," stemmed from overwhelming coursework on their part, I became the Game Master, then I started subjecting my guinea p- players - to horrible, horrible experiments. And they LOVED it. (Seriously, give a pyromancer an alchemical flamethrower sometime. Even if it doesn't increase his power whatsoever, he'll love you for it.) Sometime around helping to convert the wife of one of those two original Game Masters to the hobby some years after college, the realization hit me. If I could take a random math teacher and make her a Pathfinder fan with my antics, then my insane musings might be worth sharing.
Long story short, The Tinker: Master of Modular Mechanical Mayhem was spat out after about five years of rattling around in my noggin, people loved it, I made a couple thousand dollars off of one item, and I quit my job without considering that I'd need to do that again and again and again to keep a roof over my head. Impulsive, that.
To date, I've written eleven off-the-wall base classes, loved producing every single one of them, and have several more big projects in the works. My upcoming Kickstarter is a bit of a Hail Mary. If it works, my slow growth holding pattern will be vastly accelerated and I'll be able to start looking for a home before too long. If it doesn't work, I might have to look for a job.
In your opinion, what makes a good Pathfinder RPG compatible product?
The final product needs to be mechanically interesting and balanced, crazy enough that Paizo proper would likely never attempt it, and yet flavorful enough that people can see its inherent value in their home game. This is because a third-party product is, frankly, a risk. There are a number of GMs out there who dismiss this little niche of the market out of hand, and others who very rarely allow such content for reasons ranging from balance to "you can do this with an X". Not everyone sees a new class as a bundle of mechanics, and not everyone cares about the intriguing backstories that can be crafted with new lore. Since it is impossible to predict which angle is of most import to a given player, and because moving a product is an uphill battle compared to Paizo itself, a good third-party product does its best to produce as many angles as possible. Those who like the flavor will be more willing to roll with an odd mechanic. Those who like the mechanics will be more willing to rework the flavor if it doesn't suit them.
In short, one must try to appeal to as many major categories of gamers as possible while remaining true to the need to produce unique, undiluted work that fits the target niche.
When and how did the Strange Magic Kickstarter get started?
Somebody thought it would be cool if print versions of my classes existed, and I happened to be in agreement. Because paying for the covers of books is expensive, and pages are significantly less expensive, it made sense to group a number of systems together by theme rather than release the books one class at a time. If this takes off, I expect we'll see a "Tome of Invention" sometime next year.
What can you tell about Strange Magic?
Strange Magic, launching August 28th, is a compilation of three magic systems previously released by Interjection Games, each expanded to include new spells, base classes, archetypes, prestige classes, and so on. It seeks to be the spiritual successor to the Tome of Magic, what I personally believe is the high point of d20 creativity by Wizards of the Coast, which is responsible for the wonders of pact magic and a well-meaning, but ultimately mathematically insolvent version of truename magic. These magic systems are as follows.
- Flavor - Ethermagic is a "space and time" themed magic system that links all practitioners to a strange extrauniversal fluid called the ether. It is the ether and the ether alone that stops the various universes in the multiverse from colliding and obliterating one another. Needless to say, anything that sits there and keeps a bunch of squirming universes in check is going to be absolutely suffused with some sort of cosmic vibrational energy, and those who are lucky enough to communicate with the ether tend to have free reign regarding its use.
- Mechanics - Ethermagic is effectively the warlock "all grown up". I've always seen the warlock as the entry-level caster, an individual who bridges the gameplay gap between thwacking things with a maul and zapping things with a lightning bolt. Ethermagic takes the concept of a blaster who can go all day and turns it on its head, turning it into a highly freeform resource management game. All ethermagic classes have an ether point (EP) pool, an EP regeneration rate measured in points per round, and a number of various blasts, buffs, tricks, and bestowals that can be performed. Ethermagic is balanced against the tricks and damage output of the good martial classes (barbarian, paladin, arcane duelist bard), with the ability to "nuke" by assembling and casting modular spells that use more EP than the character regains each round, thus forcing the player to wonder whether or not that one round of going nova is going to be worth impotence for the rest of the fight.
- Flavor - You are a composer. You (probably) have an enormous ego, and you probably are quite charismatic despite your ego, as you rely on an adoring public, some rich aristocrat, a religion, or some other entity with money to fund your extravagant lifestyle. Oh, and you can make cannonballs rain from the sky by conducting the 1812 Overture, so you've got that going for you, too.
- Mechanics - Maestros are the evolution of the bard from an individual who knows a dozen ditties to an individual who knows dozens of compositions, can arrange these various intros, melodies, and outros in musical scores, and then conduct the scores to make fun things happen. This effectively makes a maestro the "full caster" of the musical world, granting a wizard-like flexibility and promoting music from "something the bard does" to its own magic system.
- Flavor - The instrument of the universe's creation is a primordial tongue known as the First Language. When something is described using it, the universe simply must obey. It is the realm of the gods, and some say their portfolios merely stem from their absolute mastery of small slivers of this language. It describes all that has been, is, and will be, in this and all other universe. And mortals are starting to figure out how to use it.
- Mechanics - A from-the-ground up reconstruction of the classic 3.5 system with entirely new core, metamagic, and spell systems, classes using Interjection Games' truename magic uses pseudo-Concentration checks in order to cast spells. Flexible metamagic, called inflections, allows for the application of special modifiers, such as faster casting or additional targets, to any spell, called recitations, that the class can cast; however, as casting gets harder the more a specific spell has been cast per day, and as using inflections increases the rate at which a spell gets harder, using these inflections literally dumps the caster's resources up to five times faster than casting without. Combined with copious resources provided by lower level recitations that get easier and easier to cast, but do not scale with level, this new truenamer is perfect for those players who love to spam numerous effects and chain combos in order to keep up with the party. It's dynamic. It's rewarding. But, as the abilities never scale, it's never overpowered.
In order to appeal to a wider audience than usual for an Interjection Games product, each base class, archetype, and prestige class in Strange Magic will contain a short NPC writeup, including statblock, personality, easy plot hooks, and so on, so that insertion of one of the cool flavor ideas presented herein can be leveraged by a GM just as effectively as by the player. Do you want to suddenly have a halfling prophet with eldritch wings, a confusion scream, and torso tentacles running the local cult? Have fun with Brother Underhill! We've currently got over 20 archetypes, prestige classes, and classes written or lined up to be written, so Strange Magic is an under-the-radar NPC codex in addition to its role as a book of awesome alternate magic.
What are the best things about Strange Magic and what type of players or GMs would you recommend it for?
Strange Magic is one of the biggest departures from Vancian "prepare your spells for the day" magic ever to be made compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It opens up brand new avenues of play and expression and is something I hope has universal appeal. This said, two of the three new systems are indeed fairly complex, though not significantly moreso than a wizard, so an experienced player capable of thought that is quite lateral from the established spellcaster norm is recommended for maximum enjoyment.
What are the current goals for the Kickstarter? What are the biggest challenges?
The Kickstarter is funded at $2,000 with a secondary book of ridiculously cool prestige classes, entitled The Eccentric Prestige, at $4,000, color art for Strange Magic at $7,000, and color art for The Eccentric Prestige at $10,000. The biggest challenge is currently graphic design, as I haven't found a guy with an acceptable work ethic at a price I can afford, or at least afford without incoming Kickstarter funds. In the end, I've been forced to do the initial mockups and such myself, though they're coming out fairly well, so this is turning out to be an excellent silver lining learning opportunity. If this Kickstarter really takes off, I may be able to afford somebody, particularly if we go color.
Is there anything else people should know about the Strange Magic Kickstarter?
My truenamers can yodel and make mountains
In your opinion, what are the most important things to consider when starting a Kickstarter?
Before launching a Kickstarter, be sure to make as many alliances as possible. Not only can a fresh set of eyes on an existing pile of work cause fun and interesting things to branch out everywhichway, but additional people with star power of their own can only increase the odds that you'll actually be funded. Beyond that, stay true to your craft!
What skills, tools or other resources do you consider to be the most important in running a Kickstarter?
Given this is a maiden voyage, I'm going to have to take a raincheck on this, though I expect endurance and keeping the communication lines open for six months while the project is underway is going to be high on the list.
What do you find most rewarding about running a Kickstarter? What about least rewarding?
Again, as this is my first Kickstarter, the following is all conjecture, but I am looking forward to A: listening to all of the crazy awesome ideas that will come down from the backers who purchase archetypes and prestige classes and B: making a withdrawal of all of the Kickstarter funds in one dollar bills and swimming in it at least once before I have to spend it. The least rewarding part will undoubtedly be the day I lose access to the giant pile of one dollar bills. But that's okay - the geek cred from a good Kickstarter will just make the next transient pile of George Washingtons even bigger, yes?
Is there any further advice you would give to someone interested in running a Kickstarter?
Hire a German. Seriously, dude's car breaks down in Scandinavia, has issues with his plane ticket, gets home from an academia trip I don't know how many days late, and one of the first things he does upon getting home after such a harrowing experience is spend some time doing work for me.