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A roleplaying game for two players about revolution, failure, and hope.
Life on the burgeoning Martian colony is hard. In the midst of political corruption, equipment failure, extreme weather events, and civil rights crack-downs, a new voice has risen up from the people. That voice is 39 Dark, guided by its newly appointed leader, Lane Novak.
During play, one player (called the “Savior”) takes on the role of the story’s main character, Lane Novak. The other player (called the “Governor”) is in charge of all other characters. The object of the game is to tell a meaningful story about Lane Novak’s attempt to change Mars Colony for the better and cope with her own sense of self-worth in the face of mounting violence and political backlash.
39 Dark is based on the same system, and the same world, as the original Mars Colony. However, 39 Dark is a complete, standalone game.
A solar day on Mars is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than on Earth. It sometimes takes weeks for a person’s circadian rhythms to adjust to the time differential. Can you imagine? Jet-lagged for three, four weeks? Intolerable. But the colonists still pour in from Earth. The Earth Coalition promises them a playground in space, and they flock to the spaceports, ready to make a new life for themselves on Mars before Mars is ready to accept them.
Mars Colony was built under a great dome, divided into five districts, each with representatives sitting on the Colony Council. The Colony was meant to be a perfect restart for humanity. It was the promise of life among the stars, the beginning of a new era of exploration and colonization. Even the new Earth Coalition and local Martian government was supposed to usher in an age of harmony. But it’s all the same. The government believes that it can take more power for itself, that it knows best. Its halls are filled with career politicians, most of whom are allied with corporate interests because they are themselves stockholders and CEOs. Profits and job security provides the politicians with all the motivation they need to remake Mars in their own vision regardless of the will of the people.
It doesn’t have to be this way. On Mars we can be free, severed from our Earthly roots. Most Colonists believe that we need Earth to replenish our supplies, and provide us with security. Food, water, building materials, and even comfort goods need not come from Earth. We can make them all here on Mars. We need only free ourselves from the fear of failure. We are strong. We can take what we need from Mars, and start a new life here. It ends and begins with you.
“Now is the time for action. Now is the time for hope. Join us, Martians, and find the strength to make your planet yours again!” —Excerpt from a rally speech delivered by Eckhardt Poulsen, 39 Dark founder, approximately 20 minutes before his assassination in Mars Colony District 4.
Mars Colony: 39 Dark is a tense roleplaying game that allows you to explore modern, real-world political themes without sacrificing the fun of a RPG experience. These are just some of the game's highlights:
- Two-player specific design. 39 Dark is perfect for those times when you have only one person to play with, or when you would prefer to tell a story focused on a single memorable character.
- It's short. The game is playable in the time it takes to grab dinner and a movie. In just one or two sessions, you will have a complete story about themes that matter to you.
- Sci-fi and politics were meant for each other. The game features rules for bringing real-life political movements into the fiction, but without the need to be an expert on the news.
- Rules for sequels built right in. If you love the original Mars Colony, then you're going to love the rules in 39 Dark that allow you to tie one game to the other. Explore the legacy of Mars Colony's "hero," Kelly Perkins. Re-tell the story from another perspective. Reveal the truth about her government programs.
- It's on Mars! Let's not overlook the obvious. Mars has long held the imagination of story-tellers, dreamers, and scientists. I designed both of my Mars games based on a love of the Red Planet. I want to share that passion with you both in the game text and in the wonderful artwork by Tazio Bettin.
What Do You Do in the Game? How Does it Work?
39 Dark, like its predecessor Mars Colony, is designed for two players. One player (called the “Savior”) takes on the role of the story’s main character, Lane Novak. Lane is the new leader of a burgeoning protest movement, 39 Dark. She is tasked with bringing about significant change in the Martian colonies, especially at the governmental level. In addition, Lane must cope with the fact that the government and people of Mars will actively resist change and label her a traitor. Lane will face failure, her own feelings of inadequacy as a leader, and the possible futility of 39 Dark’s efforts. She will also face the choice between peaceful protest at the cost of efficacy, and more violent action at the cost of lives. Her position is tenuous, daunting, and, above all, emotionally devastating.
The other player (called the “Governor”) is in charge of all other characters. These may include 39 Dark members, government officials, Colony citizens, Peacekeepers, criminals, rouge freedom fighters, Earth visitors, etc.
The object of the game is to tell a meaningful story about Lane Novak’s attempt to change Mars Colony for the better and cope with her own sense of self-worth in the face of mounting violence and political backlash. The story takes place as a series of scenes during which Lane learns of impending or ongoing efforts by the Colony government to further oppress its citizens. Lane will then implement a plan to try to achieve an agenda designed by 39 Dark to alleviate the oppression. The other characters in the story exist to help or hinder Lane. The other characters act as individuals, with their own motives and goals. They may or may not value 39 Dark’s, or the Martian citizens’, best interests.
When Lane’s plans work, she will help to empower the citizenry towards self-government. When they fail, she will have to choose between facing the consequences of her failure, including the sacrifice of her reputation and followers, or feeding the people false hope in the name of a better future. Too much false hope, however, will lead to disillusionment and accusations of treason. If Lane is not careful, she will face arrest, exile, or even execution.
The players will take turns setting scenes. During each scene, the players will move the story forward by describing any action, conflict, or dialogue that is taking place. When one scene ends, another will begin.
After nine attempts to achieve 39 Dark’s agendas, the game ends. The players take stock of what Lane has accomplished and decide if 39 Dark will blossom into a successful movement, bringing greater freedom to the people, or die out as a fringe group bent on naive goals or even treasonous methods. The players also decide if Lane becomes a hero of the people, or exits in disgrace.
The rewards for this Kickstarter are straightforward, and I know you're going to love them.
If you are interested only in PDF copies of 39 Dark or its prequel, the original Mars Colony, check out these reward levels:
- $6 (PDF) : At this level, you get one PDF copy of 39 Dark before it goes on sale to the general public. The game will be delivered to you as soon as it is finished this Summer.
- $12 (PDF Combo) : Same as above, except at this level you get two games, 39 Dark and the original Mars Colony. 39 Dark was designed as a sequel, and includes rules for directly linking a game of Mars Colony to 39 Dark so that you can continue your story of political struggle and intrigue.
If you want physical books and PDF copies, then check out these reward levels:
- $24 (Book + PDF) : At this level, you get a book and PDF copy of 39 Dark. The book will be printed in full-color with the gorgeous artwork you see by artist Tazio Bettin on this page. You will get your PDF as soon as the game is ready this Summer, and your book will follow sometime in early Fall 2014. Shipping is free to U.S. addresses, and only slightly more for international backers.
- $34 (Book + PDF Combo) : Same as above, but for just $10 more, you can get both games, Mars Colony and Mars Colony: 39 Dark in book and PDF format. It's the complete Martian experience. Both books are full-color with great artwork. Your PDFs will be delivered ASAP, and the books will follow in early Fall 2014.
- $76 (Four Books + PDFs) : Same as the $24 level, but you get four copies of 39 Dark as both a book and PDF. This level is a great way to purchase multiple copies at a discount and also save on shipping.
If you are looking for the books, PDFs, plus something extra, these reward levels are for you:
- $50 (Book + PDF + Deck of Political Cards) : At this level, you get everything from the $24 level, which includes the book and PDF copy of 39 Dark. You also get a deck of professionally printed cards. Each card in the deck will include the name and some brief background information about a real-life fringe political movement. Perfect for the players who don't feel ready to choose their own protest groups, or who would like to mix things up with a random collection of contemporary fringe groups.
- $55 (Book + PDF + Skype Session with Me) : At this level, you get everything from the $24 level, which includes a book and PDF copy of 39 Dark. In addition, I will play a game of 39 Dark with you over Skype or Google+ Hangouts (if you live in the Chicago area, I will even play with you in person). We will agree on a time sometime between funding and the end of March 2015 to arrange for a game. I would love to have a game with you, so please consider backing at this level.
- $60 (Book + PDF + Deck of Cards Combo) : Same as the $50 level, but in addition to the deck of cards, you get both games, Mars Colony and 39 Dark, in book and PDF format.
What is the Deck of Political Cards?
At both the $50 and $60 back level, you get the game book plus a deck of modern, real-world fringe political movements. In 39 Dark, players begin the game by brainstorming about fringe political movements that they know about from their own personal experience or from watching the news. These political parties form the basis of the fictional 39 Dark movement on Mars.
But what if you're not a news-junkie like me? That's okay. The website will contain lots of material about fringe political and protest groups to get you started. And if you pledge at one of the higher levels, you will get a deck of 32 professionally printed playing cards. Each card will contain the name of a fringe group plus a short description of the group's methods and goals. Use the cards to:
- Learn about various fringe political action, extremist, and protest movements from around the world.
- Play the game with a fresh mix of political groups by shuffling up the cards and dealing them out randomly. Each game will be unique, which means more re-playability for you.
I'm working hard to make these cards both functional and beautiful. I think they'll really enhance your experience.
$3,500 – If the project can hit this mark, I will do two things. First, I will write a piece of short fiction set on Mars just before the events of 39 Dark. I can't tell you everything about the story, but I can say that it will involve 39 Dark's founder, Eckhardt Poulsen.
Second, I will create a set of companion record sheets that build off the themes and characters in the short story for use in a game of 39 Dark. You will be able to read the story and then jump immediately into the game. While 39 Dark is designed for customization from game to game, I know it's sometimes fun (and time-saving) to use pre-generated material. In that spirit, I think you'll enjoy the overlap between game fiction and game play.
Assuming we hit the goal, both of these bonus items will be available to all backers as PDFs this Summer.
The artwork by Tazio Bettin is finished. Play-testing is complete. The game rules are 90% complete. So why go to the Kickstarter community now?
I need your help to make this project a reality because the final push between now and publication costs money. I need funds to:
- Complete editing and writing so that your reading experience is clear and concise;
- Lay out the book to make it as approachable and readable as possible;
- Finish the game's website, which will include a number of support documents, reference sheets, and other valuable information; and
- Print physical copies of the game book in gorgeous full-color.
I have set a modest goal because I want to make this project a success, and because I know that I can make every one of your dollars stretch. With your support, I know we can make Mars Colony: 39 Dark a reality. Thank you.
Risks and challenges
I have already published two roleplaying games, Mars Colony and Hero's Banner: The Fury of Free Will. I have the experience and know-how to make Mars Colony: 39 Dark a success. The artwork for the game is complete. The rules have been play-tested. I have set myself a realistic schedule. However, like any publishing project, there are some potential risks. What I can't control is the printer. I have worked with the same printer for years, and I trust them to do a great job. But if problems with layout, color, or scheduling do arise, it may take a littler longer than I was counting on to get the books into your hands. Rest assured, I will keep you up to date, do my best to work through any problems, and get 39 Dark to you as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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