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Produce horror-noir roleplaying one-shots using a regular pack of playing cards and no preparation.
Produce horror-noir roleplaying one-shots using a regular pack of playing cards and no preparation.
293 backers pledged £4,406 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

£4,406

293

"One of the few truly functional investigative RPGs I've read.  It's up there with GUMSHOE in terms of investigative design." - James D'Amato, of ONE SHOT PODCAST

"Cool as hell." - Nate Crowley, author of The Sea Hates a Coward

"My wife who had never played an RPG before picked it up in less than five minutes. An hour later we were stuffing a body in a car trunk whilst backlit by an exploding gas-station." - Dr. Stephen Duane Dean Junior

Imagine if David Cronenberg directed The Maltese Falcon...

It's the forties. You live in a bayside city that's secretly under the control of an insect cult. Tonight you're going to prove that to the world.

EXUVIAE uses a single pack of playing cards to procedurally generate an investigative roleplaying game, keeping track of the knotting conspiracy and the Chandleresque interruptions. It plays for one to four players and one gamesmaster within a single session of four hours and without any prior preparation.

"I most enjoyed the atmosphere, and the way it manages to keep a tight focus on a sprawling conspiracy." - Jonathan Sims, head writer of The Magnus Archives horror podcast

All game art will be illustrated by Jacopo Moruzzi
All game art will be illustrated by Jacopo Moruzzi

Preparation

"It's playable without any sort of prep. I love it." - Grant Howitt, designer of Unbound and Goblin Quest

"Combines the safety of amazing game mechanics with creative freedom." - Peter Antoniou, 'psychic' comedian

EXUVIAE was designed to produce an investigative roleplaying experience without needing elaborate planning. If you've ever wanted to run an investigative game but haven't had time to dedicate to preparing a mystery, this is the game for you. What's more, because the structures of the game provide specific narrative prompts from the players, it better enables characters to make deductive leaps and the horror feels closer to home.

Improvised games can fall foul of powerful player characters - you could roll natural twenties all night. However, in EXUVIAE, you need to get all of the cards into the conspiracy and so some actions will have to fail. The game interprets these failures as complications and oversights: the game world will always react to player choice.

"Draw the ace of spades once! Love this card based RNG." - Dev Joshi, creator of Headless Ghost  

Cover design and layout by Alina Sandu, featuring art from Jacopo Moruzzi
Cover design and layout by Alina Sandu, featuring art from Jacopo Moruzzi

Stretch goals

I hadn't listed these out before launching, as I wanted to focus the efforts on presenting the very best of how I wanted EXUVIAE to enter the world. Something that's held me back from backing projects in the past is seeing a wealth of stretch goals that dilute the core concept of the project.

As such, my initial calculations have taken into account the optimal choices for the book's production values; that we're doing well hasn't unlocked access to slightly better paper. Likewise, the rules of the game are quite slim and I don't feel releasing it as a hardback would fit with the finished vision.

I am keen to make additions that will bolster the tone of the game.

£2400: Noir cocktail recipes — FUNDED

Noir is a genre where it's almost impossible to avoid the alcohol. Even the cover of EXUVIAE has a particularly uninviting martini.

If we reach £2400, I'll commission five exciting writers to create bespoke cocktails for the game, whose recipes will go in the final book. Expect innovative drinks designs from Ruth Ball, of Rebellious Spirits and Rough Spirits & High Society; Noel Charlton, formerly of the Hilton's cocktail bar 'Cloud 23' in Manchester; Robert Teszka, expert in psychology, magic, and tiki bars; Ruby Smith, illustrator and design studio manager; and Dr Jonathon Speed, chemist and theatrical genius.

£5000: Cultists caught on (short) film

I've spoken in the pitch video and elsewhere that the insect cult is a property I've been working with for a long time. Alongside my novel, The Butterfly House, I'm working with filmmaker Tom Thornton to produce a short horror film for entry into local horror film festivals.

This film, set in a forties bayside city, details the involvement of a private eye with the mysterious House Dragonfly and would serve as a perfect trailer for the game you're going to run!

If we reach £5000, everyone who has backed at DIGITAL level and above will gain access to the finished film well before it goes on general sale.

(Note: These are distinct and separate projects, so while I'll be investing the some of the profit from this funding drive into the film, any setbacks in the film's production will not impact on the delivery of EXUVIAE. Short film expected to be delivered by December.)

If you'd like a stirrer for your cocktails, you can also download the 3D printable file for this!
If you'd like a stirrer for your cocktails, you can also download the 3D printable file for this!

Gameplay

The characters in EXUVIAE will be investigating a conspiracy, but they don’t have to be investigators by trade: you could be a taxidermist, a mayoral candidate, an aspiring journalist. You’ll begin play determining what three things you’re skilled in and what are your connections to the city and the conspiracy. As the game progresses, your skills and contacts will simplify and complicate matters of investigation.

During play, the difficulty of your actions will be simple, tricky or challenging: the value of the card you draw will determine if you achieve outright success, a complication, or incur an oversight or catastrophe. But noir is not a genre where you act unimpeded: if you ever draw a face card, you’re interrupted in your task.

You’ll be using these cards to build up the conspiracy: developing by suit and value according to the rules of a solitaire variant. However, the more you piece together of the conspiracy, the more the insect cult takes notice, the more of their resources they throw against you.

"By far the most interesting part for me is the fact it does play against you." - Elise Bramich, telvision comedy producer

"EXUVIAE's pacing mechanic (the Conspiracy) is genius." - Paul Bennett

Give me the money ... in used non-sequential bills

EXUVIAE is written. It's been extensively playtested, with all different numbers of players. The game is ready.

So why do I need your money?

This is a game that's been close to me for two years and something I feel should be given the greatest opportunity to stand on its own. Your money will pay for 

  • evocative art
  • professional layout design
  • print and manufacture of a physical book

I've put out a number of successful games as pay-what-you-want PDFs with basic art and layout. EXUVIAE is better than them.

What else are people saying about EXUVIAE?

"Reminiscent of The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Whisperer in Darkness, with a bit of Naked Lunch, a pinch of Doctor Who and Fu Manchu and a smooth dollop of film noir, with a sprinkling of Game of Thrones and the historical Borgias." - Douglas Mackie

"The pseudo-noir setting coupled with the heavy insectoid horror is properly great." - Conor O'Sullivan, pedipalp enthusiast

"It's full of self indulgent film noir tropes and spooky insect monsters. All boxes ticked." - Tom Thornton

"It’s so different from most of what I’ve read . And I’m pretty well read. It’s original and I applaud it." - Cassidy Moon

"EXUVIAE replaces the dice with cards, the deep space squids with unnatural insects, and the tedious investigation rolls with tense, escalating horror. Perfect for any horror fans looking for something new and different." - David Schirduan

Risks and challenges

The game rules themselves have been extensively playtested and are fully written. They will undergo a final proofread & copywrite before the full PDF is released. (All backers are immediately able to access the bare-bones rules document and begin playing today.)

I've worked with the artist before and he produces excellent pieces in a timely fashion. This project will create a lot of work for him, but its completion rate has already been taken into account for the final delivery.

While this is the first time I've produced a physical book, the designer in charge of layout is experienced: Alina produced the layout for GOBLIN QUEST and UNBOUND. I'll also be asking advice from my network in the RPG and magic scenes: both Grant Howitt and Phill Smith have a lot of experience in crowdfunding and executing deliveries.

I'm a teacher by trade: by the time the bulk of the work towards hitting our target date will be required, I'll be on my summer break and able to fully prioritise the release of EXUVIAE.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.24

    JUST THE RULES

    Want to help out? You'll get your name in the final book and access to the bare-bones rules document right away.

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    DIGITAL

    You'll get a full colour PDF with all of the final art when it's finished and access to the bare-bones rules document right away. You'll also get your name in the final book by way of thanks.

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    Pledge £15 or more About $19

    Early bird PHYSICAL + DIGITAL

    You'll get a beautiful paperback edition of the game and the complete PDF edition. You'll get access to the bare-bones rules document right away and your name in the final book by way of thanks.

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    Pledge £20 or more About $25

    PHYSICAL + DIGITAL

    You'll get a beautiful paperback edition of the game and the complete PDF edition. You'll get access to the bare-bones rules document right away and your name in the final book by way of thanks.

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    Pledge £35 or more About $44

    LEAVE SOMETHING BEHIND

    You get to decide something that's been left behind by the insect cult that'll be included in the book's example lists.

    You'll get a beautiful paperback edition of the game and the complete PDF edition. You'll get access to the bare-bones rules document right away and your name in the final book by way of thanks.

    (Final wording of decision subject to editing by the design team.)

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    Pledge £50 or more About $62

    LEAVE SOMEONE BEHIND

    You get to create an example investigator to be used in the book. You get to decide on the character's personality, skills, and appearance.

    You'll get a beautiful paperback edition of the game and the complete PDF edition. You'll get access to the bare-bones rules document right away and your name in the final book by way of thanks.

    (Final wording of character design subject to editing by the design team.)

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    Pledge £100 or more About $124

    SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE

    You get to create an example investigator to be used in the book. You get to decide on the character's personality, skills, and appearance. This character will appear in one of the book's illustrations.

    You'll get a beautiful paperback edition of the game and the complete PDF edition. You'll get access to the bare-bones rules document right away and your name in the final book by way of thanks.

    (Final wording of character design subject to editing by the design team. Final aesthetic choices to be made by the artist.)

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    Pledge £5,000 or more About $6,221

    WHISKY AND ROOM SERVICE

    You get to London. Sean puts you and three friends up in a seedy hotel and runs the game for you in the hotel bar overnight.

    You each take away a signed physical copy of the game and memories you'll never be able to scrape from your brain.

    (All guests must be over eighteen years of age. Guests must pay their own passage to London.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)