Dragons Conquer America – Kickstarter Canceled

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Back in 2015 a company by the name of Burning Games took Kickstarter by storm with a brand new Role Playing Game, FAITH: The SciFi RPG. The concepts put forth by the Kickstarter were well received by fans of RPGs and critics alike. Set in a SciFi setting the game utilized a poker deck in a unique fashion to set forth a gameplay that was less based on luck and more so some resource management for players. I was certainly on board.

When the Kickstarter had run its course FAITH had been successfully funded and Burning Games had a success on their hands. It wouldn’t be their last either. Since then they’ve gone on to great success getting three other Kickstarters funded. So when they launched the Kickstarter for Dragons Conquer America, there was likely a lot of optimism, they’d been here before. A unique product, not much like what people have seen before (even in a gorgeous time of a veritable treasure trove of RPG concepts), with a touch of resemblance to FAITH by utilizing the same poker deck based system backbone, known as the “RPC Engine”. However, not far into its run backers started to stall and ultimately the creators decided to go back to the drawing board. What happened?

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It is evident by their offered Starter Set, The Coatli Stone (free to download by the way), that this game has been worked on, in depth, prior to the Kickstarter. So while you may shrug and say “at least they aren’t out much, good thing they had Kickstarter!” You’d be partially correct of course but I imagine plenty has already gone into this product already. It wasn’t just a concept like some companies are fortunate enough to be able to utilize. Blood, sweat, tears, and capital likely went into what they have now, and if you check out the download mentioned above they have a cool idea.

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In Dragons Conquer America you are transported to a fictionalized history of the 16th century invasion of the Americas. In this version all the trappings of fantasy are also prevalent. You have magic, from both the indigenous peoples of the Americas and a religious based magic from the European invaders, there are fantasy creatures to contend with as well, especially…well Dragons.  That’s not all though. The creators decided to try something a little different with the lore this time around. They want the community that plays this game to help guide that lore. A living game if you will. It’s been done before but this would be the chance to essentially be a part of establishing a game world from the get go. Even using the outcomes of the Starter Set adventure.

So as you can see, Burning Games has a pretty cool concept at play here. Obviously it didn’t grab the same level of attention as their previous games did though. I have a few personal thoughts.

One area I noticed was the high dollar figure they aimed for. With FAITH they went for €30k (roughly $35k). That’s no slacker of a ticket price but they ended up with €41k at the end of the day. Perhaps that’s what played into their decision to set the goal this time to €42k (nearly $50k). To me getting into numbers that high for a brand new game setting can be a tough sell to some, even if you are a company like Burning Games who has a proven track record of delivering very quality merchandise.

Monster

Another potential issue at play might be the recent release of the revamped 7th Sea game by John Wick and company. It gives players a chance to run around a similar time period in an already established setting. Granted the loose system present in 7th Sea isn’t nearly as crunchy as the RPC Engine, so they are very different games, but it does provide another avenue to play explorer in an age of flintlock and boats. In this same vein, perhaps the core fans of Burning Games’ stuff just prefer Science Fiction.

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I think what might be affecting it the most though is how the game lands in our current world climate. In DCA you can play as either the invading Europeans or the Indigenous peoples, this is true, but considering how we are currently looking back on those times, how would you ever want to be a conquistador? There is even a sub system within the rules that takes into account a character’s personal prejudices. That is some loaded shit right now, no matter how you view “political correctness”. To me I would have concerns running one of these games at a con, expecting everyone at the table to treat their character’s in game prejudices in an adult fashion. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous that I would be concerned about something like that, but it’s an inherent truth that many in our hobby have trouble with this. Granted, this is your game and you can be as good a guy in game as you want or as bad. It just seems like adding in a system that expects you to roleplay a prejudice might be uncomfortable for many (as a caveat you are expected to build you “tolerances” over time and are rewarded for it).

Maybe I touched upon some problems, perhaps not. In my last paragraph I might have even gone too deep into the system and found something personal when it might just be some surface stuff they need to tweak. In the end I truly hope they work out the kinks and bring this back to the table, I do actually love the conceptual time period as an area to play around in. I also know that Burning Games knows how to produce very quality work with interesting lore and solid mechanics. I’m positive this is merely a setback and not a barricade to future work. I wish them nothing but success!

-Melvs

If you wish to weigh in and voice why you think things went belly up for the time being feel free to comment below! Also let me know if you think I’m completely off base!

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Piracy in Theah! John Wick’s 7th Sea

“Let’s play a pirate game!” Who hasn’t either heard this exclaimed or shouted it themselves when contemplating their table’s next set of adventures eh? Over the years there have been a number of games suited well enough for a game on the high seas, generic systems like Savage Worlds, or maybe even a game that integrates the concept within like Iron Kingdoms. None have ever been quite as quick to the tongue as 7th Sea however and now, fresh from a successful Kickstarter run (and the starting of a whole new company, John Wick Presents) we have finally received a second edition of the game. Let’s be honest though, this is more of a re-branding of the titular title, utterly new and cinematic in nature, the new 7th Sea is upon us.

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The version of this product I will review is the pdf format of the game, available from Drive Thru RPG for $24.99. At this price point you will receive:

  • The Core Rulebook in a Low and High resolution format
  • Character Sheet
  • Two World Maps
  • The Quick Start rules

You’ll find zero complaints from me regarding the design, layout, and imagery of this product. It is flat out gorgeous. It really makes me consider getting my hands of the physical copy of the book some day, if for no other reason than to have it sit on my shelf looking pristine while I use the pdf for game-play so as never to touch it. As is evident from the style chosen to introduce those behind this book (a well drafted mock up of a movie poster) there is a push to showcase this work as a grand cinematic feature. This style choice does not disappoint, I had some real fun parsing these pages and loved all the artwork within.

After an introductory work of short fiction, the well written “A Day’s Work” by Jennifer Mahr, that goes a long way into giving its audience a feel for the world of Theah and its heroes (no worries I’ll not ruin it, great read) we get ourselves into the meat of the book.

Chapters one and two are all introductory pieces into the 7th Sea and an expanded introduction into the world of Theah itself. The continent of Theah is loosely based on our real world version of Europe and Asia of the pertinent time periods to the age of piracy. An interesting tidbit we receive right off the bat is an emphasis on how the world of Theah handles diversity, in that peoples of all nation, sex, and creed are to be treated equally. This is a great idea for the game table anyway, so including it in game (with a good rationale for why it is that way) is a nice touch. Further through chapter two we are introduced to the various nations (their etiquette, governments, and even food, clothing , and customs), Religion, Guilds, Pirates and Privateers, and more. Some of the items touched on here are broadened in their own chapters, like Secret Societies. Spanning just over 100 pages these chapters give you just what you need to have a feel for the setting.

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I adore every chapter’s two page splashes. Some utterly epic work.

Character creation, as described in chapter three, comes across fairly simple with enough choices to address even the most fiddly of players. An interesting process starts this creation off. A list of twenty questions helps to guide a player into fleshing out just who their character is. Questions like “How would you physically describe your hero?” might assist you in the mechanical aspects of the upcoming creation and yet there are also questions like “Is your hero in love?” that speak to more “fluff” related items. After reading through this section I can easily see how a veteran of the game might simply skip it but I’d urge any player to use this list as a jumping off point, it really looks like it might add some much needed depth!

Honestly, once you have a concept for your character (something the aforementioned section will produce) the remaining choices simply fall into place. Traits detail core strengths, next your character’s nation and background add bonuses to and Advantages, then you enhance Skills gained through your Background or add new ones, and add some extra Advantages. These are the major mechanical aspects, and your concept will help you choose them quickly. After that there are two items to add on to a character that I feel are pretty unique. Arcana is essentially a version of horoscopes that add extra bonuses to certain styles of play, and then you come to Choosing a Story. This last bit is much more abstract, as you aren’t bound by the suggestions they lay out, but as I mentioned there are suggestions (and a helpful template). Your story appears to be the mechanism for how your character advances in “level” or rather how one increases certain Traits\Skills or earns new Advantages. Complete your story, earn the pre-ordained reward. I will note that there is one last step of some finishing touches to work on after this though, wealth, languages, secret societies, etc.

Chapter four addresses the mechanics of play. There is a simple three step system to recall for any situation. The GM sets the scene, a player may decide to take an action and if the GM feels that action is what’s called a “Risk” the player will need to roll dice, lastly the results of those rolls to resolve the Risk. Obviously things may get more interestign than that but thems the basics. One thing I like is the section starting on page 172 that lays out a fictional back and forth between a GM and a player to showcase how such situations play out. I’ve seen this trick done many a time in RPG books and I always like it.

Once the die are cast and totaled, called the Approach in this book,  the GM must then decide if the player has succeeded and created an Opportunity for the players, a Consequence, or both. Great care is taken to ensure any GM knows that it is far more interesting to mix the two and to liven them up from a standard “You\They take wounds” situation where possible. Make it cinematic.

Getting deeper into this chapter the rules allow for all sorts of adjustments, from both the GM (ala something called the Danger Pool) or the players (Hero Points, Flair, Pressure). Details get rounded out about dealing with wounds, because sometimes the Consequence truly is taking a sword to the gut, and there is even a nice section on setting up a “rush of furious activity” known as a Dramatic Sequence. The mechanics can seem a heady at first, but the deeper you read (and after parsing the various examples) you’ll get the gist rather easily.

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All I’ve spoken on only encompasses the first two thirds of this book. The next four chapters cover various character options, the many styles of sorcery available, dueling maneuvers, how to sail a ship, and the various secret societies a player can belong to. Then, to wrap things up, we have a strong finale chapter dedicated to assisting GMs (from novice to veteran).

7th Sea is a very different game from its roots with its original Roll and Keep system, and it stands to be seen which players may prefer. The new system is well fleshed out though. Attention has been paid to the minutia, and we have a very complete game. It is an interesting blend of fiddly mechanics and emphasis on storytelling that I find myself interested to dive into. I get the impression my regular gaming table would not approve of the “leveling” mechanic in the game, but I honestly love the idea of setting out to actually complete story arcs and goals, and then being rewarded for doing so.

If you find yourself craving that cinematic feel of piracy on the big screen, this is your game. If you love the idea of taking a character along a storied path, this is your game. If nothing else the book is chock full of excellent artwork, and fantastic lore usable in any piracy game. There’s a reason this project raised over 1.3 million on Kickstarter, it is grand!

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Get out there and sail those seas!

-Melvs