Welcome to our Kickstarter campaign! We’re Scrivened, a newly formed company comprised of up-and-coming RPG professionals. Our first project is Swans of Black, an 80+ page tome providing a number of Swans: scalable events for your story-crafting pleasure. Each Swan is a tool for the DM, containing storylines, encounters, NPCs, monsters, and more. It’s also valuable tool for the player, as it features numerous character archetypes, feats, spells, equipment, and character portraits. These rules are designed to be compatible with the relatively new 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. In short, we want to make stories DMs want to run and players want to take ownership over. We want to provide awesome tools as well as inspire new ideas.
"So what's the deal with the name?"
We thought you might ask that! Way back when, the statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb came up with the idea of 'Black Swans,' events so far out of the norm that they can throw everything else into chaos. Empires fall, new empires emerge, and opportunities abound for intrepid individuals to claim the day. If you take this idea and apply it to fiction, you've got the most essential element of good storytelling. But most adventure modules only give you one of these, and you can rarely do anything interesting with it. We thought of a better path. Why not give players and dungeon masters a whole slew of these, with advice for how to connect them and change them to fit wherever they might want? That's the product we've put before you now.
Swans are stories. They might be the main plot of your campaign or they may be in the background adding a bit of flavor to your game. They could be small problems, kingdom-scale events, or world busting incidents. They begin, change things, progress, and potentially end.
“How is this different from the countless adventure modules already out there,” we hear you asking. Great question!
Firstly, the scalability we provide allows you to have a Swan start small and become a larger threat as the story progresses. Larger adventure paths often track you into the bigger narrative, forcing DMs to constantly draw players back into the fold. This is entirely counter to maybe the greatest strength of tabletop RPGs: fluidity. As players and DMs, we wanted to create a story format that allowed narrative flexibility, responsive to players’ choices rather than designed to constrain them. The Swans are our answer to that problem.
Instead of moving from plot point A (e.g. the kobolds attack the encampment!) to plot point B (e.g. the kobolds were paid by the Duke!) to the inevitable ending (e.g. the Duke was actually a lich!), we came up with a system where point A, B, and C are tied together conceptually. You can take any seed we provide and scale them to match not only your characters’ level but also to fit organically in any stage of the plot. They’re collections of ideas to explore rather than textbooks to follow.
“That sounds amazing!” you’re thinking, “but what would that look like?” Let’s give you an example.
One of our Swans sees a moon moving out of its normal orbit. This causes the tides to shift in strange ways, drawing up forgotten creatures from the deep seas. If that didn’t wreak enough havoc, creatures around the planet spontaneously develop psionic powers as the nature of magic changes. But the timeline is entirely up to the DM. This could happen globally, all at once, or it could be seen as odd portents manifesting in a small group of orcs. Let’s go with the latter. Those orcs, suddenly made brilliant, begin to rally other barbaric races to their banner. This newfound nomadic nation becomes a vastly powerful kingdom, affecting political actions around the world. And that’s only one combination!
Our goal is to give you a toolbox that can be used, time and again, to create whatever stories your players will most enjoy. Other products hold your hand so tightly the circulation gets cut. On some level, we suspect they don’t trust you. That’s not our style. Trust is the only way forward. What we want is to show you the path back to where RPGs started, to show you what made them great in the first place. Creativity is the name of the game, our friends. It’s hard to create the world you want to live in. We’ll happily help you there.
We’re a new company called Scrivened, a coming together between author Ryan Chaddock and artist Avery Liell-Kok. Along with Ryan and Avery we’ve assembled a team from a few of our talented friends.
Avery Liell-Kok (Artistic Director). Avery is a professional illustrator with experience creating beautiful artwork for the roleplaying game industry. She’s incredibly excited to take the lead on a project of this size and scope and hopes this will be just the beginning for Scrivened.
Ryan Chaddock (Lead Writer and Developer). Ryan is a jack-of-all-tradesman, holding a degree in applied economics and public policy with a background in software engineering, theatre, and retail customer service. He has published over a dozen titles with his company Ryan Chaddock Games, several of which are Gold best sellers on DriveThruRPG. Ryan’s strengths include big picture themes, real world commentary, and fresh mechanics. He’s on Twitter at @chaddockr. You can check out Ryan’s previous work here: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/5939/Ryan-Chaddock-Games
Joseph DeSimone (Managing Editor). Joseph was born, raised, and currently lives in Manhattan, New York. In his short life he has spent much time introspectively, some creatively, and less productively. His collaborations with Ryan, Avery, and co. are an attempt to improve upon all three. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from CUNY Baruch. You can reach him via Twitter at @IHeartFargo.
Katherine Gohring (Layout Artist). Katherine diligently and creatively works as our layout artist and spot editor, shaping our books with a careful eye towards readability and style on the page. A PhD student in informatics by day, Katherine is a brilliant and insightful part of the team.
Pledge levels listed do not include shipping and handling costs. You will need to add a shipping charge to your pledge depending on country, which Kickstarter will inform you of when you go to pledge.
Our fulfillment will be handled by DriveThruRPG, who can ship your rewards to the following countries: US, Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, and the UK.
Desktop Images. Backgrounds for various desktop sizes, created from the full page artwork featured in Swans of Black.
Campaign Updates. Regular updates on our progress, including in-progress artwork and playtesting opportunities.
Credit as a Contributor. Your name listed in the backer credits of Swans of Black.
Swans of Black. The book itself, a beautifully illustrated 80+ page supplement (at standard 8.5x11 inches). Available in softcover and hardcover, depending on your pledge level.
Character Deck. Dozens of character portraits for use in your games. They'll be included in the book, and provided as a pdf and as a card deck depending on your backer level.
Become a Character Portrait. Send us a picture and we’ll turn you into a character for the Character Deck.
Pitch a Swan. You help us come up with the concept for one of our Swans (there will likely only be 4 or 5 in this book, so that’s a big chunk of content). Maybe we’ll make just what you’ve been craving for your campaign. Tell us what to do!
Like most campaigns, we've got lots of ideas in store for what's to come if this project takes off. Here are a few of our plans:
Community goals are like stretch goals, but simply based on social media interactions and blog posts about our campaign. If we hit four of the possible requirements for a goalpost, that prize is unlocked!
You can find us on Twitter as @scrivenedgames posting with the hashtag #SwansOfBlack during this campaign. Our facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/scrivened
Risks and challenges
This is a first Kickstarter for all of us on the team, so we won’t tell you there aren’t risks. However, the team has experience putting together books of this size and has a track record of hitting deadlines.
With a prolific writer and a professional illustrator leading the team, the only hiccups we foresee would be in the printing and delivery of hardcopy rewards. Our plan is to use DriveThruRPG for our fulfillment, allowing us to operate using print-on-demand which makes our costs easy to predict.
Beyond delivery problems, one of us could die or get seriously sick during the production period and that could critically hamper or halt the process. We’re still seeking immortality.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)