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120 randomizer cards for all editions of all fantasy role playing games; over 1.7 million NPCs, events, story seeds, and more!
120 randomizer cards for all editions of all fantasy role playing games; over 1.7 million NPCs, events, story seeds, and more!
449 backers pledged $10,699 to help bring this project to life.

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The GameMaster's Apprentice: A Fantasy Deck for any RPG

$10,699

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If you already know about The GameMaster’s Apprentice (funded and fulfilled successfully, thanks to you, the KS community!), you can skip to The New Deck: Fantasy, below; if not, read on for details, or check out this free QuickStart Guide and download a free demo of the original deck in the beta of my solo-game, ALONe!

The Quick Version  

  • Fantasy-themed idea generator for gamers and writers.
  • Create engaging characters, story seeds, encounters, and more!
  • Use the cards as a game engine to run any edition of any RPG!
  • This campaign will also help upgrade the original GMA decks.

The Slightly More Detailed Version

This campaign is for The GameMaster's Apprentice: Fantasy Deck, a set of 120 cards (60 double-sided in Print-on-Demand format) that help create content--before play or on-the-fly--for any fantasy game or writing challenge! The same funds will also upgrade all of the original GMA products with a new piece of art and a few quality-of-life improvements. 

Even More Details: The GMA Decks 

The GameMaster’s Apprentice (GMA) decks help plan and run tabletop role playing games--in any system, genre, or world--by providing everything from randomized story seeds, encounters, and NPCs, to the results of a pickpocketing roll or a perception check.

With more than a dozen randomizers on each card and 120 cards in each deck, the range of content is incredible; drawing just three cards can produce more than 1.7 million unique NPCs or random events. For those interested in solo- or GM-free gaming, the GMA decks can even be used as a game engine, moving the action forward the same way a human GM would.

The Original Six GMA Decks
The Original Six GMA Decks

Check out this free PDF Quickstart Guide via Google Drive or DriveThru itself to see a few examples of the cards in action! 

Testimonials and Demos!

User Reviews:

You can read all about the decks in a number of detailed reviews posted on DriveThru (where the Base Deck has become an Electrum Seller, making it one of their top-7%-selling products!), but here are some snippets from various sources around the web!

"It's incredible. I highly recommend it and likely will be picking up the other genre decks." Jonathan H., Lone Wolf Roleplaying

"A truly impactful tool for getting your creative juices flowing or responding to quick course changes in mid-game. I found myself just reading them for fun." James D, DriveThru

"If you make your own adventures, like to come up with ideas on the fly, or want to do so but want to get better at it, these are the cards you need." N. Eric Phillips, BroccoliFest

"As a solo role-playing tool, this simply rocks because there are so many generators rolled into one card. I’d guess that the GMA is also handy for Game Masters who want to use the cards as a help in running or prepping games." Sophia B, Dieheart.net

"All in all, this might just be the easiest to use complete GM-tool, which can be used without anything else, even without dice should it come to that. Great value for money!" Thor S, DriveThru

"You've probably seen randomized decks of cards for RPG seeds before. But I doubt you'll find the competition half as useful as the Gamemaster's Apprentice." Daniel L, DriveThru

Free Demo Deck!

For a completely free demo, you can download a black-and-white copy of half the original GMA Deck as part of the ALONe: A Solo Game Engine beta on DriveThru!

Demo Videos

If you haven't yet watched the campaign video above, it includes a segment on building an NPC with a plot hook in 45 seconds. In addition, below are two older videos (from the original campaign) which show how to first create, and then run, a story using the GMA decks, and a newer video created since launch, showing the Fantasy Deck in a similar fashion.

The Fantasy Adventure Demo:

How to create a story:

How to run a game:

Many Thanks to You, the KS Community!

Originally Kickstarted in 2014 after approximately a decade of development for personal use, the first GMA deck was designed to be genre-neutral. Thanks to the overwhelming support of the community, I was able to deliver that original deck of cards before my estimated delivery date, and then move on to producing genre-specific decks. Each new deck has beautiful artwork and custom-tailored content, tweaked from the baseline text to better suit everything from sci-fi and horror games to steampunk and high-seas adventures.

But the one critical genre that didn’t get its own GMA deck was the granddaddy of them all, and now it is time to fix that! I’m proud to present to you, almost ready for shipping, the Fantasy GMA Deck!

The New Deck: Fantasy

The New Fantasy Deck with Prompt Icons
The New Fantasy Deck with Prompt Icons

In addition to being in a new genre, this GMA deck includes one exclusive feature, the Prompt Icons. If you’ve ever used randomizers with pictures--for example, dice with images on each side, or the Deck of Tales I made--this sort of thing should be familiar. If not, the short explanation is: These pictures can be used to randomize almost anything, including the events of an encounter or an NPC’s actions. If you draw an image of roses and daggers, perhaps someone’s romance is about to lead to betrayal; if you get a sword and shield, look out for a fight--or a new warrior companion!

With 120 card faces, that's the equivalent of 20d6 with a unique picture on every side!

What do we get?

NEW! All Tiers: Backers contribute a "Chaos Effect" to the campaign's Table of Random Magical Effects, some of which will be illustrated, as well as adding their name (if they wish) to the list of Backer Credits attached to it. See Update #4 (and possibly later updates) for details!

$5+: Backers receive the PDF download of the Fantasy Deck, which will include the fantasy-themed Adventure Guide (essentially a collection of tips and tables to help get you started) that is also included in the Base Deck, an edited and unified version of the instruction manual, and three versions of the cards: The regular full-color Print-n-Play deck; the low-ink home-printer-friendly version; and color image files suitable for use on Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, and other virtual tabletops. 

$10+: Backers also receive access to order the Print-on-Demand Fantasy Deck, double-sided on 60 cards, for manufacturing cost (approximately $5.11) plus shipping, directly through DriveThruRPG (see the section on DriveThru Fulfillment, below, for more details).

Beta Print of the Fantasy Deck
Beta Print of the Fantasy Deck

$25+: Backers will also receive PDF downloads of the six original GMA decks, each of which will have been upgraded (thanks to this campaign!) to the same features as the Fantasy Deck. Note that the Base Deck will still include the fantasy-themed Adventure Guide, and that because of its unique art and iconic look, the Demon Hunters deck does not include a separate lower-ink version of the PnP cards.

$35+: Backers will also receive access to order all six of the original GMA decks, PoD at manufacturing cost (again, approximately $5.11 per deck) plus shipping.

The Original Six GMA PoD Decks
The Original Six GMA PoD Decks

$300+: Backers at this level also get to create a custom deck! After they pick any of the available sets of art (and any of the decks' usual text as a starting point, if they want), I'll provide editorial assistance (and control; I won't publish illegal, hateful, or x-rated content) as they craft their perfect version of the GameMaster's Apprentice. See the reward level for more details, and please message me if you have any questions or concerns before backing at these levels! 

Who are you, and why are you using Kickstarter?  

Me, and me hunting students who didn't turn in their homework.
Me, and me hunting students who didn't turn in their homework.

My name is Nathan Rockwood; I have been designing and playing games in my spare time since I was in middle school, and I've been writing professionally since 2005, when I worked on the Serenity RPG, followed shortly by the Battlestar Galactica RPG and other Cortex Classic games by Margaret Weis Productions. 

Larcenous Designs, LLC
Larcenous Designs, LLC

I made the transition from freelancer to solo developer in 2014, and though I am honored and amazed that my original backers believed in me enough to let me achieve my dream and found my company, Larcenous Designs, LLC, my success is still much more in the realm of hobbyist designer than full-time professional. 

I teach English and Video Game Design at a public high school to help support my family, and while the income from Larcenous Designs is just a bit more than I need to cover my annual business expenses--which means I can sometimes afford to do more writing for game products, rather than taking other paying work like tutoring, during my summers--it isn’t enough to let me splurge on the things I can’t do myself, like artwork and graphic design.   

As with the first GMA Kickstarter, I am NOT budgeting the campaign to include payment for my time spent writing and editing. Instead, I am setting my goal to meet the financial obligations that stem directly from this deck, and am eternally grateful that the amazing Max Johnson has been willing to work with me on the basis of Kickstarter funding. As you can see in the images above, he has come through yet again, providing beautiful art for the Fantasy Deck, and now I need to be able to compensate him properly… and to afford the excellent new instruction-manual cover art by Elena Asofsky! 

New Cover Art by Elena Asofsky
New Cover Art by Elena Asofsky

Budget Breakdown

Here is the cost breakdown of what I am seeking Kickstarter funding for:

Campaign Goal: $950.00

  • $650: Art & Graphic Design
  • $200: Approximate. Taxes, Kickstarter Fees
  • $100: "I forgot to budget for something... possibly more taxes. It's always taxes (or additional test-prints and shipping charges for the PoD decks)."

My art and graphic design costs would be much higher if not for the wonderful Game Icons artists, whose CC and Public Domain art enabled the Prompt Icons (see the full credits for the icons I used in the credits of the Quickstart Guide). If you are a hobbyist or small-business game developer like me, check out their website!

I also managed to lower the goal for this deck of cards to $950, as compared to $1,500 for my first, because the cost to produce a deck (in both actual money, and in time) is much lower, now that we've already made a half-dozen of them. We knew how much time it would take, what software (which was already purchased or licensed), and so on.

I considered rolling some of annual my operating costs (software and business licenses, the fees for tax and mail services, domain registration and web hosting, etc) into the campaign target, but in the end I decided I would rather get the Fantasy Deck published first, and worry about these things if my supporters decide my work is worth the over-funding. Some advice I’ve received is to increase my campaign’s target because the perceived value of your work will increase the amount of money backers give you, but that feels a little shady to me, so I’m hoping that you, my potential backers, will value clarity over high dollar numbers.

Also Funded: Upgrades!

And while this Kickstarter is primarily for the Fantasy GMA Deck itself, if it funds, it will also allow me to take a moment to do some cleaning and upgrading on the other GMA decks, which is why they are included in the backer levels! 

I intend to take the time to update the GMA instruction manual (adding the new cover, and to make sure one version works for all the decks), upload individual image files of the cards to each deck for those who want to use them in online play (Fantasy Grounds, Roll20, or similar), and to properly set up bundle deals on DriveThru (if at all possible; there may be an issue with the printed cards + PDF versions bundling properly). To be clear, these are not stretch goals! They are upgrades I will make to all the original decks if we hit the minimum funding goal.

And speaking of that... Stretch Goals?

UPDATE 8/10/17: Because we have been funding so quickly, I have added some bonus rewards, even though they are not, strictly speaking, stretch goals. See Update #4, and keep an eye on later updates, for more details! And now, the original campaign text on stretch goals...

None, this time! The first GMA Kickstarter used stretch goals to budget for other genre-decks I wanted to create, but now I'm focusing on just getting one more deck finished and released. As a result, I do not have a list of stretch goals, and I'm also leaving out any reward levels with increased prices in exchange for adding text to the cards, which would significantly delay shipping.

However, because I want to be transparent with my planning, here are some things that I would love to be able to afford to do if this campaign surpasses its funding target. Again, these are NOT 'stretch goals,' merely a list of things I, Nathan Rockwood and Larcenous Designs, LLC, might do with excess funds in the near future.

More Art: Art is important, expensive, and not something I can do myself. Over-funding might allow me to hire artists for a number of things, ranging from adding more illustrations to the GMA manual and Adventure Guides, to being able to afford art for future projects. Of course, backers of this campaign will get to see any art purchased for the GMA documents before it hits the public, and will likely also get sneak previews of art for future projects as well.

Instruction Cards: Given how long the instruction document is, I think a condensed and simplified how-to guide, printed on a small (6-12) set of cards, would be a great addition if I can afford the time and layout. This would be included as a PDF with the decks for no additional charge, and the PoD version sold at cost. Anyone who wants could order a set, but it wouldn't increase the price of the actual decks.

Professional Layout & Graphic Design: Making the instruction manual, the adventure guides, and the ALONe solo game engine pretty could cost anywhere from $1500 on up. Even if I do overfund by enough, though, I'll be considering user feedback before paying for layout. Because the manual and other documents are already usable, it may simply not be worth the time and money to make them pretty, when I could instead be working on new projects (and paying for professional layout for them).

An App: This has been a dream-level goal from day one. Depending on what engine we wish to use, what our exact goals are, and what level of post-launch support we want, this could cost as much as $12k all by itself. It would also be largely out of my control, and depend upon the diligence of the developer I hire, so I’d say this is a long shot for now, even if I drastically overfund; while much cheaper development options are available, I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver here, and this Kickstarter project is focused on the deck of cards, not the app.

For now, those are the things on the forefront of my mind for this campaign, but they are certainly not the only things I might be able to do with surprise-level funding!

DriveThru Fulfillment & Shipping

Fulfilled by DriveThruRPG!
Fulfilled by DriveThruRPG!

This campaign, like my previous, will be fulfilled through the OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG family of sites, for both PDF and Print-on-Demand orders. This has several major advantages: You don’t have to rely on my speed or accuracy for shipping, you don’t have to pay for shipping twice (DriveThru to me, me to you), and in the unlikely event of problems with your order, you have access to help from them as well as from me.

PDF rewards will be delivered by DriveThru for no additional charge, but will require a DriveThru login to claim. For any PoD rewards, you will receive access to order your decks at manufacturing cost (approximately $5.11/deck), plus shipping.

Outside North America

While DriveThru’s shipping within North America is fast, reliable, and reasonably priced, they do have potentially high shipping costs to other regions. If this might be a problem for you, you can read their estimated shipping chart here, which indicates that most shipping to most regions would be $11-20, or consider adding a deck of the original cards to your cart and seeing what shipping is like to your area, before you back for a PoD deck of cards. If the cost is too high, you can also investigate package-forwarding services like www.ShipItTo.com, but I’m afraid I can’t offer any other forms of direct shipping; they would only get more expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone!

 

 

Risks and challenges

Having successfully fulfilled my first Kickstarter campaign on time--which grew to be much more ambitious than I originally envisioned--I am confident that I am prepared to handle the normal challenges of production even more ably this time around. Most importantly, this campaign simply has fewer possible points of failure.

I have already beta’d, I've test-printed, and I am finalizing content during the KS, avoiding stretch goals and reward tiers that would delay delivery, or that are tied to things that don’t directly increase my ability to produce content (such as the number of backers).

Also, having made technical and production mistakes during my previous campaign that introduced delays and problems through human error, I now have a much stronger pre-launch checklist--and access to the continually improving publisher toolset on DriveThru--to effectively automate and curate fulfillment.

As a result, I am confident that, unless OneBookShelf ceases operations, I can fulfill this Kickstarter within 4-8 weeks after the end of the campaign, depending on my schedule and the speed at which backers are charged for their pledge. In the unlikely event that a demon claims the souls of all OneBookShelf staff, or they are eaten by zombies or similar, I will switch to a new printer such as The Game Crafter with all due speed.

If I am run over by a magic school bus +1 (or otherwise slain by magical weaponry) on the day the project concludes, an anonymous letter with instructions for fulfillment will be delivered to a carefully selected individual. I’m using the same anonymous-letter-delivering-guy that I use for all my insurance-policy-by-blackmail needs, so you know he’s good.

On the other hand, an extremely high number of backers would make it take a little longer to fulfill due to the increased bookkeeping and email sorting on my end, but unless the number is in the thousands or higher, I don't anticipate any impact on fulfillment times. Even then, I am intentionally building extra time into the predicted delivery window already, so I hope to avoid delays no matter what level of success this campaign achieves.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    The Fantasy Deck PDF

    The digital download of the Fantasy Deck (including the associated Adventure Guide, upgraded instruction manual, and both full-color and low-ink PnP cards; see the page text for more details), fulfilled through DriveThruRPG.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
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    60 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    The Fantasy Deck PDF & PoD Access

    The Fantasy Deck PDF, plus access to order the Print on Demand version at manufacturing cost + shipping, direct from DriveThruRPG! See the KS page text for PoD and fulfillment details.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PoD At-Cost
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    101 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    Original Digital, Fantasy PoD!

    In addition to the Fantasy Deck PDF & Print on Demand Access at manufacturing cost + shipping, you'll also receive PDF copies of all the original GMA Decks which will receive upgrades from this Kickstarter: Base, Age of Sail, Demon Hunters, Horror, SciFi, and Steampunk! See the KS page text for PoD and fulfillment details.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PoD At-Cost
    • All six original GMA PDFs
    Less
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    60 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 35 or more About US$ 35

    Everything in PDF and PoD Access!

    In addition to the Fantasy Deck PDF & Print on Demand Access at manufacturing cost + shipping, you'll also receive PDF copies of and PoD Access at manufacturing cost + shipping to all the original GMA Decks which will receive upgrades from this Kickstarter: Base, Age of Sail, Demon Hunters, Horror, SciFi, and Steampunk! See the KS page text for PoD and fulfillment details.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PoD At-Cost
    • All six original GMA PDFs
    • All six original GMA Decks PoD At-Cost
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    222 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 100 or more About US$ 100

    All PDF + PoD, And Art!

    Along with the benefits of the $35 reward level (listed below for good measure), you also get to have your contribution to the List of Random Magical Effects illustrated in full color! After the campaign ends AND primary fulfillment is complete, you will work with me and one of the artists I select to bring your idea to fruition. See Update #4 for details, but the big caveats are that your submission and the art for it must be 1) Fantasy-appropriate and 2) Not illegal, copyright-infringing, hateful, obscene, etc. Inquire before backing if you are unsure!

    Also note that, based on the commission rates of the artists I work with, this level will likely only include one full-body character in detail, or two-three partial or smaller, less detailed characters, so plan your submission accordingly!

    Also includes: In addition to the Fantasy Deck PDF & Print on Demand Access at manufacturing cost + shipping, you'll also receive PDF copies of and PoD Access at manufacturing cost + shipping to all the original GMA Decks which will receive upgrades from this Kickstarter: Base, Age of Sail, Demon Hunters, Horror, SciFi, and Steampunk! See the KS page text for PoD and fulfillment details.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PoD At-Cost
    • All six original GMA PDFs
    • All six original GMA Decks PoD At-Cost
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    Limited 1 backer
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 300 or more About US$ 300

    A Custom Deck!

    Along with the benefits of the $35 reward level (listed below for good measure), you also get to design a custom deck using any of the available card art. Want a unique deck for your home-brewed fantasy campaign? Love the art of the SciFi deck, but want to incorporate more elements of cosmic horror? Build it how you want, and then order as many copies as you want at-cost.

    You do the writing, starting with any deck's text as a baseline if you wish. I will offer assistance and feedback while you work, help revise your text, and maintain final editorial control (I won't print hateful, illegal, or X-rated content, for example), and will set up, format, and test-print the deck so you can get the same quality results as the official ones!

    The delivery time here is estimated at one additional year; if you finish writing quickly, it may be much shorter, but if it takes you more than six months to finalize your text, it may take more than a year to get your deck completed. Please inquire before pledging if you have any questions or concerns. If you back at this tier but then discover you cannot abide by my editorial restrictions or I otherwise cannot meet your expectations, I reserve the right to cancel and refund the portion of your pledge above and beyond the $35 reward level, which you will have already received by then, or a portion thereof depending upon how far into the deck creation process we had gone.

    Also includes: In addition to the Fantasy Deck PDF & Print on Demand Access at manufacturing cost + shipping, you'll also receive PDF copies of and PoD Access at manufacturing cost + shipping to all the original GMA Decks which will receive upgrades from this Kickstarter: Base, Age of Sail, Demon Hunters, Horror, SciFi, and Steampunk! See the KS page text for PoD and fulfillment details.

    Includes:
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PDF
    • GMA: Fantasy Deck PoD At-Cost
    • All six original GMA PDFs
    • All six original GMA Decks PoD At-Cost
    • One Custom Deck in PDF and PoD At-Cost
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    Limited 0 backers
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Funding period

- (27 days)