Saturday, June 27, 2015

Interview: Legendary Planet Adventure Path Kickstarter

A Sword for Hire interviewed lead developer Neil Spicer about the epic interplanetary adventure saga Legendary Planet! The Kickstarter campaign will run until Tuesday, July 28 2015. The adventure path is compatible with both the Pathfinder RPG and the 5th edition of the world's oldest roleplaying game.

Hi Neil! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as a designer and developer?
Sure. I’ve been a freelance game designer for nearly a decade now. I started small with early contributions to D20-compatible third-party publishers during the original days of the Open Gaming License, but my biggest break came in 2009 when I won Paizo Publishing’s RPG Superstar contest. From there, I’ve mostly been an adventure writer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. And, to date, I’ve been among Paizo’s most prolific writers for their flagship Adventure Paths. That’s allowed me to pen adventures for everything from standard, medieval fare involving barbarian hordes, pirates, and witches, to more cutting-edge scenarios like Far East adventuring, a mythic crusade against the demons of the Abyss, and even a popular campaign set against the backdrop of a crashed starship in a land of super-science, magic, and robots. So, I’ve spent a lot of time navigating a number of different genres, all while applying new rules additions in support of some pretty awesome roleplaying scenarios.

You're the lead developer of the Legendary Planet Adventure Path Kickstarter. What can you tell us about your work on this project?
I won’t lie. It’s a pretty daunting task. When I first proposed this idea to the Legendary Games design team, I did so with the full realization that it wasn’t something I could create on my own. I had the vision for it, but the project would need a LOT of other veteran designers to really bring it to life. And, in that respect, my role is to serve as the creative director, lead developer, and assistant editor, filling in ideas here and there, stitching individual parts together so they support the overall story of what I outlined for the team, and then vetting individual turnovers while collaborating with our contributors to keep everything on course. It’s been pretty challenging staying on top of all that. And I’m working with a lot of creative people who all have their own amazing ideas to add to or enhance the overlying storyline and campaign setting. Many of these guys have been stalwarts in the industry for a long time now. And, thankfully, they know the drill. I’ve also done what they’re being asked to do, so I have a lot of insight into the same creative process which guides them, and that’s helping us all stay on track together.

When and how did you come up with the idea for the Legendary Planet Adventure Path Kickstarter?
It had its origins in the campaign setting contest that Wizards of the Coast ran many years ago. I brainstormed a handful of different setting ideas, searching for something that would be unique enough to stand out, but also familiar enough that it would touch on elements and tropes which people could immediately identify with. That campaign setting never manifested, of course, as Wizards went on to publish Eberron instead. But, the underpinnings of Legendary Planet kept lingering in the back of my mind, and, over the years, there were other bits and pieces of books, movies, and games which kept colliding with that initial idea to give it more definition. Movies like StargateJohn Carter of Mars, and even the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Thor visiting the nine realms and the Guardians of the Galaxy playing out on a larger universe began to crystallize this idea of how to connect Legendary Planet with pre-existing worlds as a bridge between other campaign settings. There were also influences from the sword-and-planet fiction genre (especially the Barsoom-series by Edgar Rice Burroughs), other sci-fi campaign settings (like Alternity’s Star*Drive), and so on, which continued building an epic, space opera plotline to layer over everything. And it just kept growing from there.

What can you tell us about the Legendary Planet AP? What are your main design goals?
I’ll take these questions in reverse order. Primarily, the Legendary Planet AP has three main design goals. Number one, present a playable, entertaining series of adventures which can take characters from any other pre-existing campaign world into a greater multiverse filled with many different worlds, and allow them to hop from planet-to-planet as they rise in power from 1st to 20th level. Given that most other Adventure Paths usually cap out around 17th level, we felt it was important to extend the storyline enough that we take characters through a full progression of their class abilities, and this AP is designed to do that with eight separate adventures. Number two, we want to use the AP as a means of introducing our campaign setting and slowly educate everyone on the details about it one chapter at a time. These adventures are written in such a way that the PCs get to fully, and repeatedly, experience one world (i.e., the core world of our campaign setting), but also travel to many other worlds through these various gateways, essentially introducing one new planet per chapter in the AP. That lets us parse out information in chunks that should be easier for everyone to process, and all that material will eventually form the building blocks of a Legendary Worlds Campaign Setting we’ll do in the future. And, finally, our number three goal was to expand the diversity and flexibility of the Legendary Planet multiverse in a way where we can showcase various rules systems which sometimes get overlooked or go underused. Specifically, we feel that a true sword-and-planet, space opera setting which spans multiple worlds is an ideal place to play around with rules for psionics, mythic paths and monsters, as well as occult magic and even rules for mass combat, vehicles, and strongholds.

So, as you can tell, we’re being about as ambitious with this undertaking as anything I’ve seen produced for the RPG industry in the past three or four decades. The storyline of the Adventure Path itself can begin at one of two starting points. If you want to begin at 1st level, you can play through a short prequel adventure called The Assimilation Strain. It takes place on the PCs’ presumed homeworld as a small frontier town experiences a limited alien incursion in the form of a virus used as a biological weapon. For science-fiction fans, the story has connotations similar to The Andromeda Strain and Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a bit of The Walking Dead thrown in there, too. It’s meant to expose the PCs to an off-world threat as it takes them to 2nd level, but the beauty of this adventure is that it can be played completely standalone—independent of the larger Legendary Planet Adventure Path—or, it can serve as the lead-in for the AP. We designed it that way so folks can test the waters on how their players react to “aliens” getting pulled into their existing campaign setting. From there, they can pick up the first chapter of the AP as they literally venture To Worlds Unknown. The storyline for that tale begins in media res with PCs waking up as alien abductees in a strange prison facility and having to fight their way out. Of course, the way “out” is actually one of the gateways which takes them to the core world of our campaign setting, putting the PCs on an heroic path which will take them across the stars to even more strange and alien places. This adventure can be played as a continuation of the The Assimilation Strain, or, if players wish to skip the prequel, they can jump straight into the action with completely different characters who could have been abducted from multiple homeworlds. The bottom line is the Adventure Path is very much about an unexpected enlightenment on the vastness of the multiverse and the threats it contains, as well as an epic journey where the characters get to grow in power on the grandest of all stages while having an impact on many worlds rather than just their own.

Is the adventure path designed to be compatible with an existing campaign setting, or does it introduce a wholly new setting? What types of supporting material are you planning to include?
The Legendary Planet AP has the potential to be an extremely versatile campaign setting. It can stand on its own, letting players create all new characters and choose their planet of origin before coming together as a group of adventurers. Or, it can also act as an umbrella-setting, defining a broader multiverse of planets beyond just the typical one-world or one solar system settings which exist today. We fully realize that many GMs and players have invested a lot of time playing in other campaign settings besides ours, and, rather than leaving all that behind in order to “start over” with ours, why not just give them a way to bridge to our worlds instead? That’s the beauty of the gate technology we’re using as the core underpinning of our setting. It will allow you to bridge multiple worlds together. As long as they’re on a similar power-scale, you can stitch multiple settings into one by using ours as the needle-and-thread. In addition, we can set things up so that each planet in our multiverse has a handful of unique properties or conditions for those who use the gates to venture there. With the mythic rules system, we can basically layer on a morphic mythic tier to temporarily grant visitors to a new world a handful of different abilities, kind of similar to how John Carter becomes much more powerful on Barsoom than he is on Earth. Or the way Superman has different powers under a yellow sun than a red one. While we’re not looking to take mythic power to full super-heroic levels in our Legendary Planet multiverse, we are going to use it to help make the experience on each planet a little different for the PCs. Their mythic ascension is what will elevate these heroes so they can live out the epic journey in store for them.

Legendary Planet's new villainous alien species: The Klaven
As far as supporting material goes, each chapter of the AP is going to include a 10-page planetary gazetteer to share the nuts and bolts of the world where the adventure takes place. There’ll also be a 10-page bestiary section detailing new monsters and hazards you might encounter there. We’ve tapped Pathfinder Tales author Chris A. Jackson to write a 7-part series of short stories to help immerse everyone more fully into the diverse cultures of these unusual locations. And, we’ll also include at least one 6-page bonus article in each chapter detailing other important, useful information for the adventure and setting. On top of that, we’re exploring having a collection of pregenerated characters (including our four iconic playable alien races), as well as a Player’s Guide to offer advice on how to integrate certain classes or choose among various abilities and powers to enhance the gaming experience if you’re running a character through the AP. And, we’re also exploring input on campaign traits, unique gear options, magic and technology, and so on. In other words, we’re building in all the bells and whistles. This Adventure Path will meet and hopefully exceed the expectations of anyone who’s familiar with the format of prior APs.

What are the best things about the Legendary Planet AP and what type of players or GMs would you recommend it for?
First and foremost, it’s a sword-and-planet AP. So, that means it’s not just pure medieval fantasy, but it’s not full-bore sci-fi either. Sword-and-planet tends to straddle the line between those two genres. As a result, most people refer to it as sci-fantasy. To me, that’s kind of been an underserved market in terms of campaign settings, so (if you’ll pardon the pun) we’re striving to fill a void with this undertaking. The type of players and GMs recommended for it would still be the same folks playing Pathfinder or 5e or similar RPGs today. It won’t veer too far away from any of the familiar elements they already enjoy in their existing games, but it also provides a dash of “something different.” And, because we’re taking players to all new worlds, we get to characterize all new creatures and monsters and races in a way that breaks out of the routine material everyone already knows. It helps make things mysterious again. And, it gives you new character options and new rewards. So, it’s really meant for anyone who’d like to broaden their adventuring experience without abandoning everything they already know and enjoy.

You've got a pretty impressive group of freelancers working on the project. What can you tell us about them?
We’ve got a LOT of great contributors on this project. In fact, one of Paizo’s developers recently lamented (in a good way) that we were stealing away their authors. In reality, it’s more like borrowing, and we’re all close friends with Paizo, who created the first Adventure Path and perfected its format over the years. And, for an undertaking this ambitious, we pretty much need veteran designers and authors who have experience with this scale of adventure-writing and world-building. Our prequel adventure is co-written by three-time RPG Superstar alumnus Tom Phillips and myself. Jim Groves, Mike Shel, and Matt Goodall are writing Chapters 1 thru 3. We just funded Richard Pett writing Chapter 4. And, provided everything goes according to plan with the Kickstarter, Steven T. Helt, Tim Hitchcock, and Jason Nelson will write the higher level adventures with Chapters 5 thru 7. Beyond that, we have a number of other contributors working on our support material, including guys like Sean K. Reynolds, Mike Welham, Will McCardell, Alexander Augunas, the aforementioned Chris A. Jackson, and a lot of other folks we’ll be assigning stuff in the days to come. In addition, we’ve signed on some really great artists for this project, too, and I’ve been really happy with some of the early sketches and illustrations we’ve received to help bring the campaign to life. The cover for To Worlds Unknown on our main Kickstarter page is by Tim Kings-Lynne and he's done a fantastic job of capturing the look-and-feel of Legendary Planet for us.

Can you give us an exclusive teaser about the adventure path?
We’ve been posting a few teaser updates to the Kickstarter already (mostly as art images), and we ran a preview of both The Assimilation Strain and the first part of To Worlds Unknown at this past PaizoCon in Seattle. We also used our most recent Legendary Games newsletter to share the stat-block for one of the villainous races in the setting. But, for this format, I’ll share an all-new teaser. You may have noticed that I included Sean K. Reynolds in our list of contributors working on support material for the AP. His assignment is to establish a group of 20 new, core deities for our campaign setting—essentially interstellar beings capable of reaching across the multiverse and responding in divine fashion to their followers. These deities will be in addition to any other pantheon or mythology you decide to link up to the Legendary Planet multiverse with your own existing campaign, and Sean will be expounding upon them in short little paragraphs as the bonus article in Chapter 1 of the AP. We also hope to have a first look at these core deities—as another update to the Kickstarter—in the form of a simple table detailing their alignments, portfolios, domains, favored weapons, etc. And, we’ll also be connecting many of these gods to the primary alien races (both good, bad, and indifferent) that we’re defining for our campaign setting.

What advice would you give to someone interested in running a Kickstarter?
Start small and build from there. We’re being very ambitious with this one, because we already have a few under our belt. Rachel Ventura is our marketing manager, and before joining us at Legendary Games a couple of years ago, she worked with Frog God Games and helped manage a handful of their Kickstarters. In addition, Legendary Games launched our first Kickstarter to fund a compilation of similarly-themed material for a Gothic Campaign Compendium, which we’d previously published as AP plug-ins. So it was mostly material which we’d already written, could then layout for a single hardcover book, and fulfill very quickly. That simple project helped establish the reputation that we can meet our obligations to our backers, and we’ve prided ourselves on that ever since. Our second Kickstarter was a stronger push into collaborating with other third-party publishers, where we partnered with Kobold Press, Dreamscarred Press, and Rogue Genius Games to produce three, separate hardcover books for a Mythic Monster ManualMythic Spell Compendium, and Mythic Hero’s Handbook. Collectively, these three books helped push our boundaries a little bit so we’d know our limits for future Kickstarters. And, like our first project, the Mythic Mania hardcovers are printing and on their way to our backers as promised.

So, Kickstarters are a huge undertaking, but we've got quite a lot of experience with them now. It definitely helps to have a lot of your material pre-written and ready to go, because that speeds fulfillment and your backers don’t have to wait as long to receive their rewards. We went into the Legendary Planet Kickstarter with a similar premise in mind. The text for our first two adventures—The Assimilation Strain and To Worlds Unknown—will be written and ready for early release as soon as the Kickstarter ends. The next two adventures—The Scavenged Codex and Dead Vault Descent—are already being written and should be entering the development cycle around that same time, with an intended release 1 or 2 months afterward for each chapter. Once we have that behind us, we’ll focus on the remaining half of the AP (i.e., Chapters 4 thru 7) with a similar release schedule with a projected hardcover compilation of the entire product by next GenCon if all goes well. We’re dedicated to meeting that goal, but we’re just as dedicated to making sure it’s a quality product when we print it. We think it’s important to assure our backers of both of those things.

Is there anything else people should know about the Legendary Planet Adventure Path Kickstarter?
It’s going to be awesome. Seriously. This is a watershed moment for Legendary Games. It establishes our very first Adventure Path with the foundational building blocks of our very first campaign setting. And, we’re encouraging everyone who’s supported us in the past to help fund this undertaking so we can make it as Legendary as possible. We’d also like to spread the word to fans of 5th edition, as we’ll be including a version of the Adventure Path in that format, as well. Even though APs have traditionally been a product for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, we’re widening the market a bit to reach out to other RPG fans and bring them along for the ride, too. So, please check us out.

You can visit our Kickstarter page at and our company website at 

1 comment :

  1. Legendary Games brings you an epic sword & planet adventure saga for Pathfinder and 5th Edition that takes you across the multiverse!

    David Cena,

    sabari velaven


A Sword for Hire