If the name Epidiah Ravachol means anything to you, then that headline is starting to make a lot more sense. For the last couple years, Epi, as his friends calls him… and we’re not sure if we’re one of them so let’s try this again. For the last couple years, Epidiah has put together a special non-denominational tabletop bundle around the holidays and called it Epimas. This year is no exceptional and we’re proud to state ScreenPlay is included in one of those bundles.
This year, we’re going to have an earnest, no-bullshit Epimas.
For those not in the know, Epimas was created by +Nathan Paoletta and myself way back when PDFs were still just kind of a new thing–before the iPad and other reading devices, so folks were still a bit leary of them. Following in the grand tradition of . . . well, just about all of capitalism, we were trying to create a new normal. We wanted to make it okay to give the gift of a PDF for the holidays. Particularly because small-time game publishers with shoestring budgets like ourselves had none of the resources to stock and delivery a holiday load of physical games.
So we created Epimas, a holiday set on my birthday (Dec. 24th) during which you give the gift of games (in PDF format) and enjoy them with your friends, family and assorted loved ones.
If you’re interested in indie RPGs such as ScreenPlay but also Apocalypse World by Vincent and Meguey Baker, the Romance Trilogy by Emily Care Boss, Our Last Best Hope by Mark Diaz Truman, and many more (57 titles, to be exact), visit the Epimas page. In addition to grabbing games for yourself, you can also enter the email of a friend and provide them with free PDFs at no additional charge.
What a good question. What exactly is High Plains Samurai (or HPS, as we call it around here)? With a little over a month before the public playtest/preview and four months until the Kickstarter launch, now seems like just as good a time as ever to divulge what makes this game tick. And there are many more questions to answer in the coming weeks.
What genre is High Plains Samurai?
What is the One Land, the Five Cities, and the Wastes?
Who are the people calling them home?
How do you play these characters?
What is qi and how does it give some of these people incredible powers?
What are the Elemental Spirits and how do they interact with the One Land?
Who is this Black Scorpion threatening to destroy the One Land and finish what Chaos started?
Plus so many more. That’s where posts like this will begin to answer those question, tease you of the infinite possibilities, and prepare you to band together to save this world and its people from ultimate destruction.
For those of you new to this site (and Broken Ruler in general), my name is Todd Crapper (yes, that’s right) and I’m the creator of HPS and the figurehead of Broken Ruler Games. With this long gestating project approaching these two major milestones, I want to share with you the process of creating this game, its setting, and what is so magical about this game.
Let’s begin with perhaps the first lesson: What genre is HPS?
The Ultimate Mash-Up
Cutting straight to the chase, HPS isn’t about one or two genres. When it first started four years ago in my kitchen, it was a spin-off based on The Good, The Bad, and The Weird involving a train robbery merging westerns with wild and crazy wire-fu sword fighting. As time went on and as this game grew in potential, it also became apparent publishing this project faced an obvious hurdle: there were already a few western/samurai mash-ups in the RPG community. This one needed something unique to truly stand out in the crowd.
Building up the setting, I started experimenting with additional genres adapted to suit each of the major locations in the place called the One Land. Each of the Five Cities – the major communities fortified within unique geographical locations and home to vast majority of survivors from Chaos’ Wrath, a near apocalyptic event that has scarred the landscape and its people for generations – became its own stand alone setting. Merged into one cohesive whole, there are near endless possibilities for the make-up of any group of heroes (though anti-heroes may be a better word).
What began as a wester/samurai/wire-fu concept has now become a western/samurai/gangster/barbarian/steampunk/post-apocalyptic/superpowered quest of gods fighting over the fate of their homeland. Phew!
Imagine the possibilities. Your group can consist of a young, insulate gangster who rose from poverty to a position of power within one of the gangs from Yung Zhi, enforcing his boss’ orders with a Tommy gun; a bounty hunter and her double-barrelled shotgun who calls the rugged, sandstorm streets of Hunan home; a banished warrior from the snow capped mountains of Khar’tep with nothing but the desire for revenge, his axes, and the ability to turn flesh to stone; a noble warrior from the poisonous jungle surrounding the fortress of Monsoon tasked with discovering a lost tome by her General, blade and armour at the ready to battle anyone who gets in her way; and a genius inventor from the underground city of Rust, who happens to make his way across the One Land riding atop a warmech and its twin machine guns.
This also means going up against some equally versatile and dangerous enemies. Your lead characters will face others who have tapped into their qi powers, wield legendary weapons capable of slicing through stone or summoning a swarm of locusts, and so much more. Like I said, the possibilities are endless.
How The Hell Are You Making All These Genres Work?
If you’ve ever heard of (or better yet, played) ScreenPlay, you have a very good idea of how HPS works. If not, well, it uses story game mechanics allowing a wide range of genres, styles of play, and more. More importantly, the players are the ones driving the story forward with the Director (aka the GM) keeping the plot moving forward and challenging the lead characters in a true improv style game where anything can happen.
By stripping away the mechanics associated with genres, tropes, and other standards of any specific emulation, the rules allow everyone to simply describe their characters as they see fit. Without guidelines or mechanics forcing your hand in how you act and guiding your behaviour using pre-determined reward systems, you can play HPS however you want to play it. Even in whatever storytelling style floats your boat: scripts, novels, anime, the sky’s the limit.
But HPS is not exactly a ScreenPlay product. It applies a few new mechanics specifically designed to maximize your potentials as your story unfolds, such as building your potentials rather than default to its dice value, legendary weapons, teachings… don’t worry, we’ll get there soon. What continues from its predecessor is a free flowing storytelling experience driven by its players to create their own version of a world filled with characters like Grandfather Tom, the Council of Iron, the Desert Sun Gang, Xang the Mother of All Gangsters, and the unstoppable cataclysmic force known as the Black Scorpion.
The Doors Have Begun To Open…
Over the next few months, you’re going to have the opportunity to learn a lot more about HPS and how you can help shape the game that will hit Kickstarter in March 2017. For our next lesson in tapping into your inner qi, we’ll get into that dreaded day when Chaos – the very creator of the universe – took revenge on the One Land to punish his children.
It’s been a month plus change since we last posted anything here and it’s not because of taking some time off. Far from the truth and today’s new updates are proof of the Ruler’s future in 2017.
First, check out the updated (and moved) High Plains Samurai page. As we get ready to launch the Rehearsal Edition of the game at the beginning of next year, we’ve updated the juicy text and included previews of Kieron O’Gorman’s ongoing artwork for the Kickstarter and two pages of layout previews. Speaking of juicy, we’ve updated the logo too.
Second, we’re happy to report ScreenPlay is now available in a black & white softcover and will be working its way to a few small distribution channels. Phone calls and emails are in progress on that front but with access to groups such as the IGDN (Indie Game Developer Network), IPR, and local convention distributor, Ottawa Story Games, we’re hoping to have copies of ScreenPlay in a couple of stores by the start of the new year. Oh, and it’ll be available on Amazon around the world by the start of next week.
What terror will be unleashed?Who will survive the night?How will you save the museum?
Something haunts one of the city’s biggest museums in the dead of night. It leaves more bodies than clues and the staff will only be able to keep this story under wraps for so long before something truly gruesome happens. Whatever this creature is, it must be stopped and only the dedicated members of the museum’s inner circle can stop it.
Rather than actually make you wait to play for another two weeks, we’ve pulled the trigger on the PDF version of Dial M for Monster. Now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow (and soon releasing on the Open Gaming Store and Composed Dreams – coming soon!). Everything you need to play, including the full rules, allows you and friends to gather around for a Hallowe’en game of monster hunting in a 1950s black-and-white B-movie monster movie. A print-on-demand version should be only a couple of weeks away and will keep everyone posted on our Facebook page.
(This is the second draft of this post written from scratch. Something about the chart above is really throwing off WordPress and anytime I attempt to select more than one word, it scrolls straight down to the bottom. Therefore, to keep it simple and avoid a third attempt, all links are provided at the bottom of this post.)
Another fiscal year has come and gone and this one is extra special. As detailed in my personal blog, Broken Ruler Games is now an actual business. Licence and everything. Which means apologies must be made for any ruse or hand waving magician-ry of the past four years. Yet what made the goal of starting BRG remains and fuels the engine of this next step.
It meant creating a clean and accurate slate as a business rather than part of freelancing. Only a month ahead of schedule, it was time to see how well ScreenPlay has fared and discover the aftermath of 2015’s Bundle of Holding.
Let’s See Some Numbers
Yes, let’s start with that. Below are the sales/downloads for everything in the BRG catalogue from October 2015 to August 2016.
Killshot: The Director’s Cut
Hardcover B&W + PDF
Killshot: An Assassin’s Journal
Killshot Files #0
Killshot Files #1
Killshot Files #2
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition
Blessed and the Damned
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition
Softcover POD + PDF
Hardcover POD (playtesters exclusive)
Starting with highlights, the numbers for both ScreenPlay: TheRehearsalEdition (not including additional downloads during ENnies voting, which were provided on Google Drive instead of RPGNow – the original provider) and Ironbound are impressive. Those are loads of opportunities for people to discover ScreenPlay with little to zero cost (and risk). Did it translate into the desired number of ScreenPlay core book sales? No. Based on the initial launch, core book sales have dropped nearly 70% in August compared to May 2016. Even the Christmas In July sale did not improve sales. There are still sales taking place with 11 PDFs in August and a couple POD sales.
There was also no carry-over from the ENnies nomination. A couple hundred more downloads, yes, but there doesn’t appear to be any impact on core rulebook sales.
The true test will be the October release of DialMforMonster (slated for layout this weekend). At the very least, it will make for a geiger counter of a specific concept over a universal system. And whether or not people like to play old drive-in movies for Hallowe’en as emphatically as they did in playtesting.
Overall sales were down 50% from the previous year. Killshot sales dropped significantly, down by more than 90% from 2014-15 and the main cause is the Bundle of Holding. Oh, how could you, sweetest moment of BRG’s short life. The BoH was an amazing opportunity and it was also a swan song for this edition of the game. At this point, it seems to be cooling down to a slow trickle… but this is after three years in the spotlight. For my first original design, this is truly amazing and I’m happy to report over 1,000 copies of Killshot: TheDirector’sCut are resting on bookshelves and tablets all over the world.
Perhaps this means it is time to take another crack at Killshot Reloaded in the near future…
Um, Great Time to Start a Business, Huh?
It does seem like going +1 forward on BRG after a year like this may not have been the smartest move but it’s all skewed on one major factor: the Bundle of Holding. For a small indie publisher such as BRG, gaining access was fundamental to last year’s success. Yet such a thing cannot be expected as a regular feature. When I look at the total earnings BRG has accumulated in four years, 2015-16 was on par. 25% of its total earnings were made in the last 11 months and that means we held our heads above the water as the cruise ship took off without us. Thumbs up!
There’s also the price points between Killshot and ScreenPlay, with the latter priced at half that of its violent older brother. While ScreenPlay’s numbers were not what I hoped, those for Ironbound are very promising and I am considering a possible Ironbound sequel once it reaches 300 downloads.
Here’s what this teaches me. For the past four years, Broken Ruler Games has been a development studio with help from Mystical Throne Entertainment and operated on soft launches and zero marketing. Promoting, yes, but promoting is when you connect with an existing audience (Twitter followers, email subscribers) and marketing is reaching a population outside of that. Plus it’s only been available on OneBookShelf sites – that’s going to change. A lot is. It has been a learning experience these past four years and there’s a very good indication this could grow into something more, something with a bit more muscle going into the bigger picture. I’ve been having fun with BRG and creating games for people to play; now it’s time to take it seriously.
Are you ready?
To read my personal blog post on turning BRG into a legit business (that sounds kind of mafia, doesn’t it?), click here.
Discover all about the Bundle of Holding and pick up some sweet bundle on their website.
Todd Crapper is the Owner/Lead Designer/Jack of All Trades for Broken Ruler Games. Basically, anything you see written with that blue target and snapped ruler on it was written by him. Including this. He’s writing about himself in the third person. Weirdo.
Normally, there’d be a witty remarks to start off this post that may or may not play up on Santa’s workshop being taken over by rogue elves when the big man and his dear wife go away on holidays… but this sale is so big there’s no time to waste joking around.