Killing Lee Garvin - Help a real-world game designer in need
Putting a hapless game designer through a sadistic and humorous wringer for fun & profit (and help cover his real-world medical bills)
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Wed, August 1 2018 12:00 PM UTC +00:00.
Hey, there is a video of a full game at the bottom of the page, so if that is what you are looking for, head there first.
PDF rules link
We have had a few requests for the rules, so here they are. A lot of the art in these rules is placeholders and we're still tinkering with fonts and backdrops for legibility purposes, but the content is the current iteration of the rules.
July 5 - The first review is in! In German. However, you can read the somewhat amusing Google translation of it here.
Killing Lee Garvin? Huh?
Killing Lee Garvin (KLG for short) is a game with a mission. To make fun of the improbable yet inevitable mortality of game designer Lee Garvin (Tales from the Floating Vagabond, Badass Zombie Killers, etc.), which hopefully is quite a few years off. And also because on his way there he has racked up a lot of medical bills that he feels honor-bound to pay while simultaneously faced with the problem of doing so on what you can make as an indie game designer. So, with the assistance of cartoonist Ron Leishman (co-creator of Captain Canuck), I'm trying to help Lee out a bit.
Greg: Being a board/card/rpg game designer is creatively wonderful, but sucks in a lot of other respects. Publishing is already a low-income zone with no job security and negligible benefits, and game design is a ghetto within that zone.
And if you are an independent game designer, it can be even tougher. Lee Garvin is a friend and like me, an indie, but unlike me, life has not been kind to him. In the sense that "being in an accident, going into a coma and waking up medically bankrupt" is "not been kind".
Among other things. Lee has endured a laundry list of improbable bad luck events that would make a good script for a slapstick version of Final Destination.
Because I'm a game designer, I see everything as having game potential, so I humorously told Lee I should make a game about killing him off. And the more I thought about it, the more it actually started to make sense...
And so, Killing Lee Garvin was born...
Lee: I wasn't entirely sure Greg was serious about doing this at first, but I should have guessed; he made a game about stalking slasher victims (which I have played quite a bit). And for the record, It wasn't an accident that put me into the coma; it was the doctors who were trying to get me to breathe after I got pneumonia. The accident was a different time.
But to give an example of where the cards are coming from, long ago, in an age known as "The '80s", I was a Boy Scout (Go Troop 35!). While at one of our troop cookouts, the guys were spread out all over the grounds of the church that served as the host for most of our events. Being Scouts, we were naturally very curious about nature. Being Boys, we were reckless and quite foolish in our endeavors. Being the '80s, safety had not yet been invented. Some of my fellow scouts were expressing their curiosity towards nature by whacking a wasps' nest in a tree with a long stick. I was walking from around the other side of the building at the time, so naturally, I turned the corner just as they knocked the nest out of the tree, and it hit the ground, and all the wasps in the world flew into my open mouth. I really, really wish I could say that was the worst pain I have ever experienced.
If one accepts the "many worlds" theory of alternate realities, I died in 437 of them. But this being the 1980s, and my father being from Texas, as long as the kid could breathe and no bones were visible, he saw no reason to get medical professionals involved.
But I did get ice cream.
Life-threatening calamities and ice cream. The Lee Garvin story...
Greg: KLG has a few simple goals. Be a good, hilarious game. Help out Lee. The latter part is simple. After the production costs are taken into account, Lee gets half. And this is not Hollywood accounting. Lee gets most of his projected cut as fast as I can cut the check after the Kickstarter ends. And if it is funded with time to spare, I'll write as much as I can out of my own account, just to give him a head start. And the more people we get on board, the lower the production cost is per game. So, the more people that want to kill Lee, the better off he ends up. I'm not exactly sure how the karma math works on that one, however...
Lee: One thing I want to make crystal clear is that, yes, I am in a bad way (hell, I'm sleeping in my car right now), but I am not alone, and there are others who have it worse than me. So yes, I will be using some of the money from this project to dig myself out of the hole I'm in, but a full 50% of it, I intend to donate to the Jack Vasel Memorial Fund. This is an organization that has already helped me quite a bit, so I just want to return the favor. They exist to do nothing but help Gaming Professionals who have hit hard times.
About the game
KLG is a simple 3-6 player game that hides a significant amount of strategy and backstabbing. There are two ways to win. First, you can "heal" Lee and you win. Second, you can manipulate someone else into killing Lee and if you have the best game position at that time, you win. So, you can be a good guy and save him, or a bastard who engineers and then takes advantage of his untimely demise...
It's a single-deck game, with 54 cards and a bunch of tokens in three colors for representing Lee's health. Cards are simple. They have a number, a color and a type (Harm or Help). Every round you choose from a selection of face-up cards to add to your hand, play cards secretly and reveal them. Harm cards give Health tokens to other players, Help cards put tokens back in the common pool. If you get too many tokens of a particular color, Lee becomes an ex-game designer and it will all be your fault. You are a bad person and Lee's ghost will haunt you. Even if it was another player who gave you the tokens that made you lose. It's pretty easy to end the game by bringing about Lee's untimely demise, but to win you also have to have the best board position when that happens. Not so easy. So you may have to work very hard to keep him healthy...right up to the moment where you push him in front of a bus.
But you can also make deals involving the cards. And break them. You do not know exactly what other players are holding, but you do know who has what tokens and what will trigger the end of the game. So, the deals you make and the order in which they resolve is an important part of each round. So, cards are revealed and the round leader (player 1) says “Hey player 4, I won't hit you with the Squirrels if you don't Mug me”, and player 4 says “Sure thing!” Of course, since player 1 does their action first, player 4 does not have to abide by the deal, but they will. This time.
And whoever is the current round leader has to narrate Lee's life events using the revealed cards for that round. So player 1 looks at the cards and says:
"Lee compensated for the stresses of GenCon with a regular cardio workout. But while jogging in the park one morning he was mugged and beaten. And then the squirrels found him...”
KLG gameplay video
A game of KLG takes ten to thirty minutes to play, and strategy really depends on who you are playing with. People who are trying to win by healing Lee will have a different strategy than those trying to bring about his premature end, and how you play depends on how many of each type of player are in your game. But you are simultaneously playing against the table (the state of tokens and their distribution) and against the other players (what are they trying to do, and to whom?).
$15,000: The basic game
Not really a stretch goal. This covers the production, art, the Kickstarter cut and enough room to get Lee some money. The base funding level is not low-balling it in expectation we will blow through it. It is a realistic number so that if we reach, Lee gets some help. Given the fixed costs like art (most of the cards are custom caricatures of Lee), this is the minimum level to make the game happen.
$20,000: Custom meeple
The "first player" meeple in KLG denotes who gets first pick of cards and deal-making opportunities each round. If we get $20,000 in pledges, we will have a custom meeple made that is an embarrassing caricature of Lee Garvin. My personal preference would be him looking like an out-of-shape Bane (admit it, he's meeple-shaped), but if we reach this goal, Lee will be browbeaten into supplying some pictures and people can vote on their favorite in the comments section.
$35,000: Quality upgrade
The base level of the project turns a profit, but is a short run game and much of the cost is the artwork and the higher cost per game for short run printing. The $35,000 level is the minimum for getting a large print run from China. The lower cost per unit means we can upgrade the quality of everything. Cards, box, tray liner, rules, the works.
It's a big jump from $15,000 to $35,000, but depending on the printer I'm pretty sure we will be able to get a useful "printed in China" price for some level of pledges north of $15k but less than $35k. We are going to provide the best quality available for whatever level of pledges we do get, but this stretch goal guarantees we can go for the best. You're spending $25 on the game, we want it to look and feel like a good value for the money (in addition to repeat play value for the money).
$50,000: Organ tokens. Instead of the normal colored bits that are the health tokens, we will spring for the cost of custom blue brain, green lung and red heart tokens to represent Lee's health.
Laser-guided Chainsaw Add-on!
One of Lee's game designs is a cheesy little non-collectable card game called Badass Zombie Killers (or BZK), where the game is about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, having the coolest and most vicious gear, and the game ends when the zombies actually show up. You can download an image of the rules cards from this link.
Now, unlike Lee who is living in his car in Colorado, the irony is that the remaining stock of BZK actually has a roof over its head in Virginia, close enough to where I am to go get them. So, if you've every wanted a copy of BZK and saw that it is out of stock on Amazon and ThinkGeek, this is your way to get one. So, with the cooperation of Reality Cheque and Skortch'd Urf, this game of prepper one-upmanship can now be yours! Just add $17 to your (US-only) pledge for KLG and we will ship them both at the same time. The $17 covers the BZK and the extra cost for shipping, since we will have to go from a First Class 12oz box to a flat rate Priority Mail box.
Games will be shipped in the US by First Class or Priority Mail (depending on whether they top 12 ounces with the stretch goals), and tracking numbers will be available.
Same as USA, just a little more expensive.
EU-bound games will ship from the EU to avoid Customs charges and will go via regular mail within the EU.
Australia-bound games will depend on the level of funding. At the low end they will be shipped via an intermediary service, while if we get into stretch goal territory we can probably use a normal fulfillment center.
If you are backing this project from Mars, we will arrange to have your package put on the next available manned flight (losing the entire shipment we shoehorned into the Schiaparelli lander soured us on automated interplanetary delivery options). Kickstarter does not have Mars in their system so contact us privately for shipping cost. Due to Customs restrictions, we cannot ship to the Moon or other planets at this time.
Risks and challenges
This is my second Kickstarter (third if you count collaborations), and the fourth that Lee has started or been a collaborator on, so while we are not "veterans", we have some experience with the process. But this one has the potential to be significantly bigger than previous ones. The project goal is modest and will turn a profit that can go to help Lee, but if it exceeds its goals by a lot, then the scaling goes from "domestic short run printing" to "seafreight container from China", and from "local pack & ship" to "hire a fullfillment service". The numbers have been run for both cases and work out, and give sufficient wiggle room for stretch goals. However, I do want to avoid "stretch goal creep", since I've seen over-promising on other projects, and overly ambitious stretch goals also cause significant production delays.
Fortunately, I have a friend in the gaming industry (Mark Walker of Flying Pig Games (look his projects up)) who is both local and has significant experience with Chinese printers and domestic and international fulfillment operations. So in the unlikely event this explodes like kittens, I'm sure there will be headaches, but the headaches will be manageable. And if worst comes to worst, I can always blame it on Lee... (Lee: Hey!)
The timeframe from "end of Kickstarter" to "game in your hands" is going to vary based on how successful it is. The moment the minimum threshold is reached, the art will be contracted and the artist is ready to go on it. If it reaches a "China production" threshold, we have several possible suppliers and will have to choose one, and if we hit the top tier for custom game pieces, this will probably add a little to the production time as well. Of course, if we hit these thresholds with time to spare it means we can get them underway even before the campaign ends. One thing that will be a delay at the high end is that seafreight will take about a month, compared to domestic short-run printing that would take a few weeks from printing to delivery. My best guess at this point is "on time or sooner" for a barely funded campaign to "a month or two late" for one with all the stretch goals, but the benefit of the latter is a much nicer looking product (and more money going towards Lee's medical bills). The listed delivery date is an intermediate value, and if you have funded other campaigns you know how that goes.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- All gone!