The world is woven of secret names. The skin of our days is stretched tight over strange bones. There are powers that move in the dark corners of the earth, truths that are spoken in lonely places, and heroes who die nameless deaths fighting forces that they dare not comprehend. These are the silent legions that guard the waking world, and their blind armies struggle against the powers of a fathomless night.
Silent Legions is a modern-day Lovecraftian role-playing game, one built to support a sandbox style of gaming and the creation of your own diabolical Mythos. While compatible with the Stars Without Number game system and many other classic old-school games, Silent Legions is built to stand alone and provide you with everything you need to develop a grim world of unspeakable occult secrets and mad, sorcerous scheming.
Silent Legions is 160+ pages of specially-designed material to help a game master create their own cosmic evils and mysterious alien powers. Rather than simply recycle the traditional Cthulhu Mythos baddies, Silent Legions gives you the tools and techniques to make your own, the better to shock and dismay your players with fresh horrors that haven't already been wrung dry by familiarity. The creatures and cults the game helps you build are also fully compatible with most classic OSR games, allowing you to export them to other settings or mix and match with material you've drawn in from your other games.
More than that, Silent Legions is designed to help a GM create a true sandbox horror campaign. Instead of sending the hapless investigators along an intricate story arc, the GM creates a region, seeds it with points of interest, and then uses the tools in the book to quickly and easily create content for the heroes wherever they may go. The faction tools help keep the nefarious cults in motion even when the heroes are otherwise engaged, and both players and GMs are allowed the special excitement of not knowing how their desperate struggles are actually going to end. Will they crush the insidious powers of darkness, or will they miss some cyst of evil until it is far too late?
Inside Silent Legions, you'll find...
Tools for creating eldritch gods, alien races, black sorcery, unique Lovecraftian magical artifacts, fantastic demi-planes of dream, and unspeakable cults of foulest evil. Make your players afraid of the dark again- give them an enemy that's a genuine mystery to them!
Guides for the creation of horrific monsters, building them from basic templates elaborated by unique qualities and special flavors of horror. Use the example templates for a quick abomination or flesh them out to be a special nemesis for your players.
Region creation tools for building your own sections of demon-haunted Earth, including sixty location tags to define the special torments of your land. These tags are largely compatible with the other tags found in Sine Nomine products such as Stars Without Number and Scarlet Heroes, so you can mix things up for even more dread chaos.
Adventure templates for quickly producing an investigative adventure suitable for sandbox use. You can create "blank" templates out of raw plot elements and then drop them on top of your region; the blank spaces in the template interlock with the location tags to create an instant adventure no matter which location receives the template.
Cult rules that adapt the popular Faction system from Stars Without Number for the dark machinations and secret feuding of the malevolent cults you create. Keep your world in a steady downward spiral whether or not the PCs are there!
...but don't take my word for it. Pledge now and you can get the beta PDF immediately. Just check the first backer-only update for the download link.
Why Do You Need The Money?
I do my own writing and layout, but the art for this book requires a different set of talents. The heavyweight horror skills of Earl Geier have been enlisted to depict these dreadful things, along with the proven expertise of Luigi Castellani, Joyce Maureira, Miguel Santos, Ian MacLean, and more as the situation recommends. I don't wait to pay artists until publication- there's no excuse for that in this day and age- so they're going to need cash in hand as soon as their finals are in.
Sine Nomine has enough cash on hand to make sure these artists get paid even in the worst case, but this Kickstarter is my audience's way of telling me whether or not Silent Legions is a good idea. If the response is tepid, that's you telling me that you'd rather I worked on something else, and that I should back-burner this in favor of a different project. It will still get created sooner or later but the amount of attention I pay to it will depend on how badly people want it to exist.
What Are The Backer Levels?
Fearless Investigators who contribute $10 USD or more get the full PDF once the game is released. They can also consult the first backer-only update to immediately get the beta PDF, which is fully playable and contains all the tools listed above. You can pledge and be reading it within minutes.
Illustrious Antiquarians show special generosity with a $15 pledge. They get everything the Fearless Investigator gets, plus their names will appear in the special backer thanks pages that will be added to the PDF and print editions.
Grimoire Collectors crave print editions, and so I help them get their beloved paper. For $20, you get everything the Illustrious Antiquarians get, and when the book is complete, I give you an at-cost code for ordering the book through DriveThruRPG, allowing you to get either the hardcover for around $11 or the softcover for about $6, plus shipping. Get both, get either, get a couple copies if you feel like it, or get neither if you eventually decide you love PDFs more.
DTRPG uses multiple printers around the globe, so Euro and Canadian backers can get their books at far cheaper shipping rates than they'd pay for an American source. For my last Kickstarter, Scarlet Heroes, an English backer could pay $20 for the code, get a hardcover for $11, pay $5 in shipping, and still end up paying almost $10 less than the retail price of $40+shipping. And he got the beta PDF right then and there, playing it a month before the wider public could.
Some backers aren't fans of at-cost codes because they'd prefer not to have to order the book themselves once it comes out. This is a perfectly reasonable preference and one I understand entirely. But as a one-man KS producer who isn't a professional shipper, it's just safer and better for everyone if I trust fulfillment to the experts at DriveThruRPG. They do this for a living, and they will get you your book quickly, cleanly, and at the lowest possible shipping price.
Evil Masterminds aren't content to merely receive the fruits of others' labors- they want to control them. So for $25 or more, they get everything the Grimoire Collector gets, plus they get to vote on my 2015 product lineup. Right now, I have three partial products on hand that I'm trying to pick between for 2015. Which should I work on first?
An alt-history OSR game compatible with Scarlet Heroes, set in the England of 1555. Red-handed Queen Mary sits upon the throne, supported by her Catholic subjects and their firm belief that the perils of magic should be reserved to the ordained priesthood. Yet the sullen Protestant masses murmur against the queen, demanding the right to take up sorcery to defend their people against the depredations of the Fae kingdoms and the diabolic powers of Hell. And all the while, courtiers and rebellious peasants scheme to usurp Queen Mary's precarious rule, while hungry foreign eyes turn toward England's green shores....
Proteus Sector, a Stars Without Number sector setting. Proteus Sector was a hardscrabble frontier zone in the waning days of the Second Wave. Its colonists were pious Malkite Catholics and Iconoclastic muslims along with dirty-nailed miners and exiles seeking new freedoms. When the New Dawn Movement arrived from the core worlds with their advanced technology and biotechnical expertise it seemed to herald a new age of prosperity and health for the people of the sector- but the eugenic madness of the NDM soon plunged their worlds into the tyrannical darkness of Ascendant genetic superiors and Prole common-strains. Now, after a great civil war within the NDM, Proles and rebel Ascendants fight alongside the Malkite forces of the AI Pope Onesimus and Iconoclastic research techs in a desperate struggle to free their homes from the dire promise of an eternity of gengineered slavery.
Starvation Cheap, a Stars Without Number supplement for mercenary campaigns and planet-side military conflicts. Create your own mercenary legion and battle the howling soldiers of a hundred far-flung worlds, killing for gold and the hope of another day's survival. Like Skyward Steel, get guidelines for military campaigns and techniques for giving PCs the freedom to adventure while retaining the basic structure of the military. Get rules for mass combat, extensive military campaigns, and the dirty little wars that planetary leaders need expendable soldiers to conduct. Learn more about the gritty details of planetary assaults and interstellar counter-insurgency operations, and find out just how much difference the right band of misfits can make when they end up in the wrong place.
Which project will I turn my hand to first in 2015? You decide.
Bleak Prophets are the kindest and most munificent of souls, granting $100 or more in their pledge. Aside from getting everything the earlier tiers get, these seers are also invited to name a topic for me to add to the book's GM Resources section. What do they want to know more about? What other tool do they want added? Just give me a goal, and I'll produce one page worth of material on it to add to the final PDF and print, amount to about 1,000 words of enlightenment. If their desires are beyond my ability to execute, I will lament my insufficiency and return their pledge.
What Are The Stretch Goals?
I'll admit to being cautious about my stretch goals. There's no easier way to get yourself in trouble than to promise the moon and stars and t-shirts, watching that pledge tally roll upward with each fresh assurance. While exciting at the time, it tends to end in a little too much public humiliation for my tastes. With that in mind, I've chosen some more practical goals.
At $7,000, I release the art I've commissioned for free use by others. Use it for your own RPG products, your home campaigns, your own remixes and reworks and other sundry ideas. Go ahead- peel the cover off and use it on your own product! I especially want other small publishers to use this resource to help make their own new stuff, and if you like what you see, hit up the original artists for some fine, reliable custom work. I took the time to arrange the acquisition of full rights from the artists when I bought my material, because I really wanted to make this offer.
At $12,000, I will convert the game into no-art epub and mobi file versions for use on reading devices. These are going to be stripped-down single-column affairs with tables adjusted to fit the limits of the formats. Adjusting so many tables to deal with the inherent limits of a potentially phone-wide screen rather than an 8.5x11 page is a serious pain, and it makes the typographer in me weep bitter tears at the thought of abandoning all control. Even so, some people love these formats, and so at this level they'll get them. I know there's at least one blind Stars Without Number fan, and I suspect they'll have an easier time reading these books in a plainer text format, too.
Beyond that, I'm going to see what the momentum of the Kickstarter looks like and what I can plausibly deliver in a crisp time frame. If this Kickstarter rockets past the stretch goals in short order, it's a pretty clear sign that you want me to forget the memory of sunlight and the sound of human voices while hammering away at my keyboard, whereas a more sedate success means that I can probably get away with sleeping a little and a few quick meals.
Why My Kickstarters Work
You may have noticed that both of the Kickstarters I've attempted in the past have succeeded with multiples of the funding requested and delivery well in advance of the promised due date. They were modest Kickstarters, certainly, without elaborate products or extensive add-ons, but a modest Kickstarter is precisely what a one-man publishing house can produce to reliable standards and punctuality. Talk is cheap. Production costs money.
I accomplish this not with some black sorcery or by skimping on production values, but by some fairly basic management techniques for minimizing the number of things that can go wrong in the production process. These techniques are very cheap to execute, as befits a one-man house, but they save me an enormous amount of risk in executing Kickstarters.
First, I get the book draft-complete. Yes, some creators say they can't invest that much time in writing without some kind of payoff. If they don't have the confidence that their book has an audience and they don't have the enthusiasm for it that would make them write it even if it was unsalable, then why on earth should anyone else bet on it? It's clearly not a love project and it's clearly not a marketable prospect, so why exactly is it on Kickstarter? For solo creators like myself, writing costs precisely zero dollars. There are opportunity costs to the time and anguish spent over a manuscript, yes, but that's part of the basic investment a KS creator needs to make in their work.
Writing a book is a process of torment. It is writing and trashing and editing and reworking and wringing clever ideas out of your skull at two in the morning. A KS creator can complete this process before the KS starts, where it will likely be the only source of anguish in their life, or they can try to complete this process after the KS funds, while simultaneously dealing with the people who have given them money and are quite reasonably expecting their rewards. I do not understand why anyone would prefer the latter choice. That is why all backers can immediately reference the first update to this campaign and download the draft game from the folder there.
Second, I spread the art around. You may have noticed that my books have a lot of artists attached to them. Good ones, certainly, but a lot of them. It has to do with the way I parallelize the art creation process to minimize the chances that a single artist's problems will roadblock the book. Most readers won't care about the details, but I'll share them here just in case other Kickstart creators might find something useful in them.
I start by laying out the book. This is a major job and it requires a complete draft, but that's just another reason why you need to finish the text before you Kickstart. While laying out the book I identify the places where I need art and tag each slot with a code, its dimensions on the page, and a sentence or two describing what kind of illo I need there.
Then I create a shared Google Doc spreadsheet listing all the slots, their dimensions, their topics, and a column for the artist who has claimed them. I then put out an art call to the artists who've proven reliable in the past and who have styles that work well together. I also look for new blood who might fit in, either on this project or on a future one. The artists I choose can look at the spreadsheet and pick a slot, quoting me a price for the work. If it suits, I mark the slot as theirs. When they send me a sketch, I pay them half, and when they send me the final, I pay them the rest of the money and they can pick a new slot.
With this process, the fastest artists will automatically end up with the lion's share of the work, while those artists that are slower or more occupied don't end up forcing a hold while I wait for them to complete a large block of work. If some pieces are best-suited to individual artists, I might specifically reserve slots for them, but in general it's first-come, first-served. If the art slows down too badly I can hire more artists without reconfiguring existing illo responsibilities.The end result is art that comes in about as fast as I want to pay for it.
The final ingredient in the secret sauce is DriveThruRPG/RPGNow's at-cost POD codes. I'd love to be able to handle the shipping of physical books on my end, but the sheer variability of shipping costs and the cumbersome nature of the work make it a dangerous prospect. I'm not a fulfillment professional and moving hundreds of copies of books to backers all around the world is a recipe for disaster, especially since the cost of that shipping is perilously uncertain. DTRPG/RPGNow lets me lift that cost off my balance sheet, requiring less money to produce the game and letting backers deal with professional shippers who have printing sites around the world. Backers get their print copies for a cheaper total cost than they'd get through conventional retail, I don't have to worry about a sudden surge of Brazilian fandom torpedoing my cost structure, and everybody can relax.
This is a crucial element of risk reduction. How many RPG Kickstarters have crashed and burned in the fulfillment stage? It's hard, and it requires real skills and proper professional expertise in printing, shipping, and negotiating international pitfalls. In the end, everybody is safer when skilled work is put in properly-skilled hands.
These are the reasons why you should trust this Kickstarter. This very moment, you can back and download the complete draft game. With a glance at my art control sheet I can tell exactly which slots are finished and how many more are in need of work. When the final PDF is approved, you'll be getting an instant download link to it. When the POD print proofs check out you won't need to wait for me to struggle through the packing at my kitchen table, you'll just click the link provided and see DTRPG stick an at-cost print copy in your cart. I'm not saying this ship is unsinkable, but I've spent a great deal of time mapping icebergs.
Risks and challenges
The chief risk involves the one-man operation nature of my publishing. If I go down, there's no one waiting in the wings to pick things up. To deal with this, I've tried to ensure that every necessary part of this project is already underway before I come to you for money. The artists have been hired and are working, the book is text-complete and in beta layout, and all I strictly have to do is collect the art, pay the artists, and add the handful of pages requested by Bleak Prophet backers. Shipping is all through DriveThruRPG, so I don't need to handle book printing or fulfillment. Everything I still need to do, I can do with two broken legs and advanced pneumonia, so I should be ready for typical Kickstarter creator calamities.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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