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Spears of the Dawn, an African-inspired old-school RPG from the maker of Stars Without Number.
Spears of the Dawn, an African-inspired old-school RPG from the maker of Stars Without Number.
435 backers pledged $10,121 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

$10,121

435

Sunlight flashing on the lances of mail-armored horsemen. Swords gleaming red with the blood of forsaken things. Blades clashing in the shadows of accursed stone halls. Jewel-crowned kings mantled in mighty deeds and leopard-skins seated in majesty upon stools of shining gold. Cities that roar with the voices of ten thousand merchants, dust rising under the feet of far-faring traders. Beggars, wanderers, griots, thieves, obas, and heroes yet in the making- all strive beneath the skies of the Three Lands.

New! Back it now, get the alpha NOW! All backers now have access to the alpha game PDF in the Updates section of the project. Lay down your pledge and you can be reading the full game right now, lacking only the art that you're helping to fund. Once the alpha has had the keen eyes of a multitude on it, I can roll their typo-finds and fixes into the beta document for release at the campaign's end.

Moreover, there's now a new $10,000 stretch goal- hit it, and the art for the bonus module The House of Bone and Amber will be full-color and designed to be suitable for cover use by other publishers. With your help, we can provide other creative souls with every bit of the art assets they need to make their own take on an African-flavored gaming creation.

New! $6,000 stretch goal set! As described in the latest project update, if the campaign hits $6,000, I'll bundle in a 20K-word intro adventure PDF into each and every backer's final PDF shipment. You'll have everything you need to just sit down at the table and start playing.

Spears of the Dawn is a new African-inspired fantasy role-playing game built with the free Stars Without Number game system. It contains all the tools and guidance players need to sample a pastiche of rich, delicious African-inspired fantasy gaming. From the very start, players can don the roles of praise-singing griots, holy marabouts, sorcerous ngangas, and cunning warriors, with these aspiring heroes banding together to face the innumerable perils of the Three Lands in search of glory and shining gold.

Spears of the Dawn is an old-school style game built from the ground up to support sandbox campaigning. The same sorts of tools and supports that have won praise in Stars Without Number are turned toward helping GMs build and run their own Three Lands, each campaign their own fresh configuration of foes and lurking dangers.

Check out the preview character creation chapter to get a taste of how the beta layout looks and feels.

Why This Game?

Spears of the Dawn is intended to be an encouragement to other indie game designers. For decades, we've heard the common wisdom- "African games don't sell," people say. "People can't identify with African character art." "Medieval Africa hasn't got the variety and flavor of medieval Europe." "Players aren't comfortable with an African-flavored setting."

I've just laid down a $3,000 bet that the common wisdom is wrong. I've written this game, commissioned the art, and already paid out $1,800 of the budget in art costs. I've brought on the superb artistic talents of people like Nicole Cardiff, Luigi Castellani, Earl Geier, Andrew Krahnke, and Ian MacLean. I've gone to the sources, looked at the histories, checked out the mythology, and I can say with perfect confidence that medieval Africa provides amazing material.

Everything old-school gamers ask for in a setting is right there for the taking. Monstrous foes, glorious ruins of vanished ages, scheming nobles, brooding kings in splendid regalia, sorcerous cults plotting evil in the wilderness, mighty warriors with magnificent panoply, even red-handed amazonian warrior-women famed for their martial prowess. It's all there, and it's crying out to be enjoyed at your gaming table.

Too often I've seen people complaining online that our hobby doesn't do enough with this kind of material, that the art and settings we build are too often rooted in faux-European settings that waste the wonders of three-quarters of the world. In a former age, it might've been necessary to chivvy some big gaming company into providing less pedestrian material, to convince them to turn their presses and artists toward a different set of topics. Maybe in the past, it was necessary to wait for them to give us what we ask for.

Not any longer. We have the presses now. We have the links to the artists, the connections to the storefronts, the tools we need to make our own games about the things we think are worth emphasizing. We can make it and we can sell it and we can show the world just what we're talking about when we say that something is great and deserves more attention. I'm committed to encouraging this in other one-person publishers like myself.

Because of this, all the artwork in Spears of the Dawn will be released into the public domain. Use it for your own games. Use it for your supplements, or blog posts, or character art, or anything else. Make a new game with it, a better game, and sell it as you can. Show the rest of the hobby what great stuff you've got. I'll even throw in the blank InDesign templates I used for Spears of the Dawn so you can fill them up with your own game or take them apart for your own purposes. Just show us something great.

I'm committed to this project. The game is written and in draft layout right now. I've gotten about a third of the art already finished and in place. I've paid my money and now I'm taking my chances. Is there really an interest in African-flavored fantasy gaming? Are people really interested in seeing African-inspired characters and settings in their game art? I'm betting that the answer is yes, and that Spears of the Dawn can show people just a little of what they've been missing.

Why Does This Project Need the Money?

I need the money to support the art costs for this game- art that's going directly back into the community as public domain content once the game is published. Right now, at $3,000 and assuming that a significant portion of backers choose print rewards, I'm going to just about break even on the production costs. Without this funding, I'd have to start cutting corners on the art and delaying production while I worked on more remunerative projects. I want to get this game out, and I want to be able to show other indie publishers that people really do want fresh African-inspired material for their tables. Supporting this project helps to send that message.

When Do I Get My Backer Rewards?

The game's manuscript and draft layout are complete. Over the course of the next month, I'll be polishing and editing the layout. If the campaign meets its goals, all backers of Patron level and higher will receive a PDF of the beta rules with the available art slotted in. You will have the beta game PDF in hand as soon as I get the backer information from Kickstarter.

Once the art is complete, I'll be dropping it into the PDF and handing it over to the experts at OneBookshelf to provide print-on-demand and fulfillment services. You'll be getting any print rewards shipped through their trained and long-practiced shipping experts, hot from the POD presses. There'll be no worry about kitchen-table book wrapping or mangled mailing addresses-  these people are professionals.

Right now, roughly one-third of the 60 planned art pieces are complete. It's taken two months to get that far, so I'm planning another four to complete to rest. Including the time necessary to turn around print proofs, the arrival date comes out to March of 2013. PDFs will be shipped out as soon as they are ready, in advance of any print rewards you may be due.

At the same time that the game is published, a free art pack will be uploaded to the DTRPG/RPGNow servers containing all of the art material for Spears of the Dawn and the blank InDesign document templates I used to make it. This art will be in the public domain, usable for any purpose, and I strongly encourage other small publishers to put it to use in products of their own.

Risks and challenges

The largest risk to this project is in managing the art production. Out of approximately sixty planned pieces, 24 have been finished in the last two months. Given a March 2013 delivery date, that should be plenty of time to finish the art and handle the two-week proof cycle for OneBookshelf's POD process. I am in active communication with all of the artists and pieces continue to be produced within the expected time frames. The manuscript and draft layout of the game are complete, and backers will be receiving those low-art beta PDFs at the end of the campaign. From there, it's a technically simple matter to just drop in the remaining art I've commissioned once it is complete.

A secondary risk is that something might come up to prevent me from finishing the layout and submitting it for printing and delivery. There's no way to wholly foreclose this chance, but I'd encourage you to look at the list of products I've written and produced in the past two years: http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/index.php…. As the one man outfit that is Sine Nomine Publishing, there are two things I know- sandbox gaming, and how to finish a damn project. If I'm still vertical when the last art comes in, this thing is going to print.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $8 or more About $8

    PATRON - Get the low-art beta PDF immediately upon the successful conclusion of the Kickstarter and receive a complete PDF as soon as the art is finished and inserted.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    BIBLIOPHILE (United States Only) - Get the low-art beta PDF immediately upon the successful conclusion of the Kickstarter, get the complete PDF as soon as it's available, and get a softcover copy shipped anywhere within the United States as soon as the book is ready.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    INTERNATIONAL BIBLIOPHILE (Non-US Only) - Get the low-art beta PDF immediately upon the successful conclusion of the Kickstarter, get the complete PDF as soon as it's available, and get a softcover copy shipped to an international address as soon as the book is ready.

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    28 backers
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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    HARDCOVER BIBLIOPHILE (United States Only) - Get the low-art beta PDF immediately upon the successful conclusion of the Kickstarter, get the complete PDF as soon as it's available, and get a hardcover copy shipped anywhere within the United States as soon as the book is ready.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    INTERNATIONAL HARDCOVER BIBLIOPHILE (Non-US Only) - Get the low-art beta PDF immediately upon the successful conclusion of the Kickstarter, get the complete PDF as soon as it's available, and get a hardcover copy shipped to an international address as soon as the book is ready.

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Funding period

- (30 days)