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A role playing game of high-octane action, gonzo criminals, and badass assassins. Read more

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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on October 6, 2013.

A role playing game of high-octane action, gonzo criminals, and badass assassins.

Ian Johnson
Project by

Ian Johnson

First created  |  41 backed

See full bio Contact me

About this project

The year is 20XX.

An American vice-president accidentally receives the heart of a lycanthrope during a tragic mix-up during a transplant operation. In the ensuing chaos, 18 hospital staff are devoured, and the beast flees into the night.

A corrupt Russian military leader waits at a rendezvous point in North Africa to sell yellow cake uranium to a terrorist organization. His vast wealth allows him to employ a private military company, and full conversion cyborg soldiers guard him in the scorching African afternoon.

Eighty eight Adolph Hitler clones scheme in a South American jungle compound. They plot and skulk, hidden from the world, slowly rebuilding a weapons program of doomsday proportions.

These are your targets. Your job is to kill them.

Stab City! is a role playing game about deadly assassins and murderous foes. It is a story game, designed to create "Michael Baysian Anime Magical Realism" adventures, which is a thing that did not exist until Stab City! came along. It's a game about secretive cabals and mysterious organizations battling in the shadows, a world of gritty intrigue, cigarette stubs and dark, rainy nights. It is also a game about ninjas, supervillains and massive special effects budgets. It is one part grindhouse crime story, one part high budget summer action movie, and several parts weird. Stab City! finally answers important questions that people want to know. What would have happened if Haruki Murakami had directed Fast And Furious 6? What would Robert Rodriguez's film adaptation of No More Heroes have looked like? How about Zack Snyder's gritty reboot of The Venture Brothers? Or Hideo Kojima's Saints Row: The Third?

In Stab City! you play as one of Los Asesinos, a loosely knit organization of assassins, cut throats and trigger men stationed in the Cuban resort town of Puerto Muerto, colloquially known by it's residents as Stab City. Whether by intense training, advanced technology, or sheer badassery, these super human action heroes are capable of feats no mere mortal could undertake. These are no knife-in-the-ribs, stealth and subterfuge assassins. Shrugging off small arms fire, disarming a bomb with their teeth, and charging an entire army alone is more the style of Los Asesinos.

Stab City! is not a typical near-future crime thriller. It is a game about hyperkinetic action and absurd ultraviolence, where realism takes a backseat to awesome stunts and improbable scenarios. When you play Stab City! you will:

  • Jump through a skylight with two uzis blazing
  • Double cross the Yakuza
  • Throw a man through a brick wall
  • Perform unsolicited urban demolition
  • Cut off three ninja heads with a single sword strike
  • Jump out of a helicopter to elbow drop your target
  • Walk away from explosions without looking back
  • Have a gunfight on the wing of a jet plane
  • Punch a hole in the side of a tank
  • Gunfight in a fireworks factory
The Gorilla: El Diablo Oro, Mexico’s city’s most famous rudo, after a successful hit. The Gorilla class is focused on grabbing enemies by the collar and smashing their face into raspberry jam.
The Gorilla: El Diablo Oro, Mexico’s city’s most famous rudo, after a successful hit. The Gorilla class is focused on grabbing enemies by the collar and smashing their face into raspberry jam.

Stab City! is designed as a game for 3-7 people to play in a single short evening. The game has been designed from the ground up for quick play and simplicity, and to be approachable to new players. It is best played with a sense of wicked humor and a round of daiquiris. Rather than restricting myself to following the example set by traditional role playing games, Stab City! draws inspiration from video games and board games as much as RPGs in making the rules of play. One player takes the role of the Pit Boss, setting up the scenario and guiding the episode forward, while the remaining players are Assassins, the deadly inhabitants of Cuba's secret city. You can find a demo of the rules by following this link. It isn't the full rules, since it doesn't contain Assassin creation rules, rules for making bad guys, and the full combat rules (because who wants to read a page long list of status effects?) but it should show you what the game is like, and what you can expect the final version to look like. All backers, regardless of level, get access to a fully playable playtest version of the game, and backers at the Asesino Electronico level ($10) and higher will receive additional playtest packets as I tweak the rules based on playtest feedback.

Character creation is fast and simple, taking no more than a few minutes. It's designed for maximum flexibility, letting you play everything from an ex-spook to a cyborg mercenary. When you create a character, there are no lists of choices to pore over; you get to define your Edges. You simply write down what you think fits your character best. "Contacts in the Mossad," "Master of disguise," and "Chromed cyber-arm with built in vibro-blade" are all equally acceptable choices.

The game utilizes a unique playing card based rule set instead of dice. The rules are simple, allowing people with no experience to learn as they play. Stab City! has a very narrative focused challenge system that allows for incredible flexibility in the rules. The exactly same challenge mechanic can cover anything from ninja ambushes and SWAT team assaults, to tense negotiations, car chases, and hacking a computer network. These challenges encourage the players to grab the narrative by the throat by allowing them to describe their actions in a way that emphasizes having fun over realism or fiddly rules.

For those fight scenes during a game that feature awesome set pieces or particularly exciting foes, Stab City!'s Showdown system is used. The Pit Boss will set up the Battle Grid, made up of a deck of cards.These scenes use a combat system designed to balance rule simplicity with tactical complexity. Assassins use cards to jockey for position and attempt to defeat their foes or achieve objectives in a grid skirmish game.

This is what a Showdown (combat scene) looks like on your table:

A luchadore facing off against a giant robot, while a ninja poses dramatically nearby.
A luchadore facing off against a giant robot, while a ninja poses dramatically nearby.

This is what a Showdown looks like in the world of imagination.

Los Asesinos wrecking a ninja dojo
Los Asesinos wrecking a ninja dojo

REWARDS & EXTRAS

Stab City! The Stab City! rule book, available in PDF and paperback, contains everything you need to play the game in a single volume. It features black and white interior art by Daniel Olsen and Kaitlynn Peavler. In addition to the rules and setting, the book contains pre-generated characters, advice for Pit Bosses and Assassins on how to use the rules to create "Michael Baysian Anime Magical Realism" stories, an extensive chapter of villains, rivals and antagonists, photocopiable pages of tokens and effects, and optional random generators for Stab City! missions or character backgrounds. If features two self contained “episodes”: ready to play adventures that allow groups to jump right into playing Stab City! and even a chapter on suggestions for “hacking” the game and running it as a swole-and-sorcery epic, or a giant rubber monsters vs giant robots game.

Ninja Doodles Backers who pledge at the $1 level will receive a doodle of a ninja by Ian Johnson, unique to each backer, delivered to your e-mail as a JPG. Each doodle will be extremely deadly and mysterious. 

Stab City Abstract Only available for backers of this project, the Abstract is an old-school ‘zine-style booklet. It contains designer notes, the history of the Stab City! RPG, doodles of ninjas, an expanded reading/viewing list for inspiration, the game design theory behind the mechanics of Stab City!, and my thoughts on Nicolas Cage's film career.

Asesino Supremo The ultimate Stab City! collection, containing both print and electronic versions of the rule book, and the Stab City! Abstract. In addition, it contains all the materials to run the game straight out of the box. It contains 6 decks of Bicycle playing cards, a collection of poker chips, resin tokens for zone effects and conditions, as well as small toys and miniatures hand selected for use with Stab City! The only thing you need to run Stab City! that isn't included in this set is an ice cold Cuba Libre.

¡Asesino EXCLUSIVO! In addition to all material in the Asesino Supremo ($100) tier, I will personally work with you to create an Assassin to include in the book as a potential rival and antagonist. This can be just about anything you want, and includes an illustration of the character, so if you wanted to make your mom into an Assassin as a weird Mother's Day gift, this would be the way to do it. You can give as much or as little direction as you’d like, but I reserve the right to ask you for a different idea if your Assassin is too vulgar or offensive. I will work diligently to ensure you are satisfied with the result.

The Wrecker: Reynaldo Megaton, the first cyborg to play professional baseball in Cuba, originally turned to crime to pay off mob debts. It ended up being easier to just kill his debtors. Wreckers are the demolition experts of Stab City!
The Wrecker: Reynaldo Megaton, the first cyborg to play professional baseball in Cuba, originally turned to crime to pay off mob debts. It ended up being easier to just kill his debtors. Wreckers are the demolition experts of Stab City!

Kickstarter Exclusive

In 20XX, there are few actors held in higher regard than Nikolai Cage. Known for his work on such famous movies as Criminal Air, Ghost Biker, Face Swap and the American Treasure franchises, Cage is the number one American Badass. Decades of work in action movies has, through acting chop osmosis, given Cage preternatural action hero powers. The Nikolai Cage character class will be delivered as a PDF to all backers at the Asesino Electronico ($10) tier and higher.

The Monster: While most Assassins view their work as a career choice, Jenny Piranha (A very prestigious family, the Piranhas) views it as a monetized hobby. Monsters fight dirty, inflicting aggravating status conditions on their foes.
The Monster: While most Assassins view their work as a career choice, Jenny Piranha (A very prestigious family, the Piranhas) views it as a monetized hobby. Monsters fight dirty, inflicting aggravating status conditions on their foes.

STRETCH GOALS

$6,000 - “Old Stab Hack”

Kirin Robinson, creator of the ENnie award winning Old School Hack, will work with me on producing an Old School Hack hack of Stab City! This will be a complete and playable game, and will be available for free to not only backers of this project, but in honor of the free availability of OSH, it will be made available as a free download on the Stab City! website.

 $7,000 - Bonus Episode 1

Ninja expert Reynaldo Madrinan from Bumrush The Titan will write an episode for Stab City! Los Asesinos are hired to travel to Tokyo to deal with corporate sponsored superheroes, and end up destroying half the Tokyo skyline in the process. If I know Rey at all, there will probably be a giant robot involved as well. The episode will be delivered in PDF format to all backers at the Asesino Electronico level ($10) and higher. 

$8,000 - Bonus Episode 2

Jack Shear from Tales Of The Grotesque & Dungeonesque, and producer of a variety of excellent old school RPG products and, of course, the "psychoholic trash culture" RPG setting Planet Motherfucker, will produce an episode for Stab City! Los Asesinos are called in to take out a target at an exclusive yacht party, only to discover a boat full of classic horror movie monsters. This episode will be delivered in PDF format to all backers at the Asesino Electronico level ($10) and higher.

$11,000 - Stab City! Playing Cards

A unique poker deck for use with Stab City! will be produced. As an added bonus, you can play normal poker with it as well! This deck will be available as a +$10 add-on for backers.

$4,000,000 - “Danger Zone”

At $4M, I will contact Kenny Loggins and attempt to use funds from this campaign to purchase the rights to his CLASSIC 1986 song “Danger Zone.” Then, assuming I am able to procure the rights, all physical copies of Stab City! delivered to backers will include an electronic device built into the book that, using cutting edge Hallmark card technology, will play “Danger Zone” whenever the book is opened.

The Executioner: The cyberninja Masamune “One-Eye” Ginsu casually decapitating a target with his plasma katana. Executioners are fast moving and deadly, backflipping and ninja jumping all over the battlefield, just hacking off limbs lightning fast.
The Executioner: The cyberninja Masamune “One-Eye” Ginsu casually decapitating a target with his plasma katana. Executioners are fast moving and deadly, backflipping and ninja jumping all over the battlefield, just hacking off limbs lightning fast.

ILLUSTRATORS

The art in a role playing game can make or break the product. I’m excited to have two really excellent illustrators involved in the project.

Stab City!’s lead illustrator is Daniel Olsén, a cartoonist, illustrator and concept artist from Sweden. He has worked on game and software development at IC3D Media, and did illustrations in Spartacus Publishing’s Luchador: Bright Lights And Barbed Wire. Although he claims to like “robots, peace of mind and good storytelling” Daniel is from Sweden, so I assume his real interests are horned helmets and battleaxes, but was too demure to tell me that. You can see more of his work here, or follow him on tumblr.

Kaitlynn Peavler will be providing additional illustrations. An international jewel thief, she has been successful in hiding her career with a fake identity of freelance artist and illustrator. She's work on the Conquering Corsairs card game and for the Prismatic Art Collection. Her Kickstarer Deck Of Legends just funded with over 400% of the original goal!

Risks and challenges

As this is my first professional venture, gaining enough attention from the role playing game community will be the greatest challenge for this project. I have invested a lot of time and effort into this project, and hopefully that passion will and dedication will show in what I produce.

The writing of the book, as it stands now, is about 50% finished. I've written the setting and the rules, barring tweaks and fixes that will come up in play testing. All that's left is fleshing out the book and filling page after page with deadly villains and rivals. Proofreaders and play tester feedback will also help me organize the rules in a coherent way, and help me ensure that the rules are written in such a way as to be accessible to both veteran gamers and people who have never played a game before.

The $4,000 funding goal is to produce a minimalist and barebones version of the book. With that goal I can get a book printed and shipped. The higher that the project overfunds, the better I can make the book, but spending more on art assets, and increasing the page count with more enemies, episodes and hacks.

I have budgeted and planned for shipping costs and unforeseen expenses, but in the unlikely event that this ends costing more than planned, I am prepared to cover the remaining costs personally. This project is a labor of love, and while I'd love to break even, my primary concern is producing a kickin' rad product and getting it to as many people as possible.

As I am producing all of the written content for the project myself, my untimely death would mean an end to this project. However, so long as I don't croak, I am confident that issues which may arise with other contributors (graphic designers, illustrators, stretch goal writers) can be handled by myself, or by contacting backups to cover their work.

Transparency is important! Backer updates will include progress reports and information on what I'm working on, so in the unlikely event that I am unable to complete this project on time, all backers will know why, and when to expect it finished.

Nicolas Cage may sue this project. Although I’m fairly confident in my understanding of parody laws, I simply do not have the funds to deal with a court case. If such a situation arises, a replacement Kickstarter exclusive character class will be created and delivered.

Kenny Loggins may not wish to sell me the rights to Danger Zone, and/or backers may not actually want their role playing game manual to play music every time they open it.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    8 backers

    I will send you a doodle of a ninja, to be delivered as a JPG to your e-mail inbox. All ninja doodles are unique, and extremely mysterious.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    80 backers

    Asesino Electronico: You will receive a PDF of the Stab City! book, as well as all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    48 backers

    Asesino Basico: You will receive both a physical copy and PDF version of the Stab City! book. You will also access to all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $35 or more

    39 backers

    Asesino Primero: You will receive both a physical copy and PDF version of the Stab City! book, and a copy of the Stab City Abstract. You will also receive access to all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $45 or more

    8 backers

    Dos Asesinos: You will receive both a PDF version of the Stab City! book and two physical copies. You will also access to all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    12 backers Limited (13 left of 25)

    Asesino Supremo: You will receive a handsome collection of materials to run Stab City!. You get both a physical copy and PDF version of the Stab City! book, the Stab City Abstract, 6 decks of high quality playing cards, poker chips, resin tokens, and a collection of hand-selected small toys to use as tokens for Assassins. This is everything you could ever need to run Stab City! You will also access to all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $200 or more

    1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)

    ¡Asesino EXCLUSIVO!: In addition to everything in the Asesino Supremo tier, I will work with you to produce an Assassin of your description to appear in the book as an antagonist, including an illustration. Please see the Kickstarter for additional details. You will also access to all play test material and any digital stretch goals.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world

Funding period

- (30 days)