A Game About Power and What You Do With It
Petals and Thorns is a nearly completed adventure for 5e about a frontier in chaos, torn between five different major factions each with their own goals and beliefs, led by 3-5 different major characters each who themselves have subtle differences in personality and ideology. Not only does Petals and Thorns ask your players to choose which of these factions to support in different situations, it also asks players to grapple with the limitations of mortal power. Having power is not the same as being omnipotent, and players will have to decide when and with whom to compromise or else risk losing everything. You cannot simply pick your favorite faction and play all their missions to see their ending. Every faction you don't add to your own coalition will be added to your enemies', and you have little hope of winning if outnumbered four to one when the war comes.
Each decision the players make can potentially have individual effects on the story and setting going forward, not just in contributing to one faction's favor meter or another. Choosing to destroy a spider nest will curry favor with rangers of the wood, and seizing control of them for a vampire clan will naturally make those vampires happy. It will also give that vampire clan a small army of spiders to command, and that will have effects on the plot beyond simply making one meter or another go up.
This is an adventure that seeks to provoke players to think without condemning them for their answers, not to ask "do you want to be a good person," but rather "what do you believe in?"
So What Do You Believe In?
Prince Darius and his Order of the Lion have come to restore peace to the Eastern Frontier, but lurking not far under the surface of this altruism is the desire to turn the Frontier into a base of power loyal to his claim on the throne for the coming succession crisis with his brother Galais. Without any clear precedent for whether the bastard prince Darius or the half-common prince Galais should inherit, war is inevitable as soon as the reigning Queen Catherine dies - and her health is failing. Darius has come to put an end to the constant fighting between goblins, elves, and humans and halflings in the region, but in return for this protection he demands loyalty, loyalty that could see the Eastern Frontier marching headlong into all-out war - and he considers all the Frontier to have agreed to that exchange upon being born into his kingdom, whether they like it or not.
Harlequin, like just about everyone in the Lunatic Court, is a war orphan who's been making her own way since she was a child. Now twenty years old, she is a talented but inexperienced leader of a barely organized organization rapidly growing past her ability to personally manage. Making matter worse, the Lunatic Court has stumbled into a position as opposition party to the Order of the Lion's expanding reach largely by virtue of having taken issue with rampant corruption in other major power blocs in the Frontier and subsequently wiped them out. The Court has offered a protection of sorts to the Frontier by periodically hunting down bandit clans and knightly orders they disapprove of, and as Frontier natives lacking any dreams of empire, they're perhaps the only faction working directly for the interests of the locals. And yet, their bloodstained masks aren't just stage decorations. The Lunatic Court are impulsive vigilantes who cannot be relied upon to intervene in any injustice that they do not find personally compelling, with no long term plan to bring lasting stability to the region, and leadership drawn almost exclusively from war orphans aged 25 and under with no previous experience running anything more complex than their gang of vagabonds - and they're starting to lose control of that.
Caspar has been studying under the Order of the Third Eye since childhood. Most of his fellow knights of the Third Eye have been as well. His teachers were his parents, the other students his siblings. His entire life, he has believed in the power of magic to reshape the world for the better. Like many in the Order, he resents the intrusion of politics into the research which, more than the shifting colors of maps made with short-sighted ambitions of political hegemony, he believes will bring peace and prosperity to the land. Yet he and his fellow knights of the Third Eye cannot ignore the chaos of the Eastern Frontier now that it threatens to swallow up Sormont and Valence, the towns host to two of their three academies - nor do the other factions seem willing to ignore the effects of their rejected experiments and magical runoff on the region. The Third Eye claim that they're focused on the long term, and that these unfortunate side effects will be more than compensated for by the ultimate benefits of their magical research. It is nevertheless true that many of the owlbears, manticores, and other bizarre and sometimes dangerous creatures wandering the wilderness are one way or another the result of their experiments - and that many of their test subjects aren't volunteers.
Lidia Vlatla isn't even close to the most vicious vampire in the Vlatla Clan, but she's definitely the most honest. While her parents and siblings (so to speak) like to think of themselves as superior beings, their indefinite lifespans making them the rightful inheritors of all things in the end - her parents in particular can really drone on about this kind of thing - Lidia herself is far more up front: She's going to live forever, she plans to live very well for as much of that forever as possible. Certainly she avoids making enemies who might cut her lifespan short, but she honestly does not really care if some mortals bite it on the way to making her life more awesome. Not because she thinks she has some special right to wealth and happiness, but because she is a self-admitted selfish monster who doesn't care how many strangers suffer so that she can have her way. And let's face it - if you had the option to stop playing by society's rules and start making your own, you'd probably take it, too. Lidia doesn't plan to live forever all by herself. Play your cards right, and she's happy to let you join her in eternity.
Sharra is the keeper of the Order of the Wyrd's dirtiest secret: There's nothing natural about harmony at all. Nature is a cacophony of predation and disease, red in tooth and claw, where death is omnipresent and meaningless. Sharra and the Order of the Wyrd do not seek harmony because of their connection to nature. They build their connection with nature because they seek harmony, for that is the destiny bestowed upon humanoids by our higher intelligence. With the intuitions of a fully developed humanoid mind, the Order of the Wyrd can seek understanding of others, and with that understanding, destinies can be allowed to interweave instead of fighting for dominance. A world can be created where no one's nature need conflict with another's. And yet, as the chaos of the Eastern Frontier grows more and more uncontrollable, Sharra recognizes that there comes a point when neutrality becomes cowardice. She has faith that someone with sufficient understanding can find a way for lions and lambs to fulfill their nature without one interfering with the other. She also has the humility to accept that she lacks this understanding, and that here, today, either the lion starves or the lamb will be devoured - and she must pick a side.
Exploration and Depth
Setting out to be thought-provoking and philosophical is nothing but empty pretension if an artist doesn't have the technical proficiency to back it up. Media like the Witcher 3 and the early seasons of Game of Thrones receive universal acclaim, but that's not just because they're brooding explorations on morality in times of war. It's because they're also very well designed. Petals and Thorns likewise has the strong foundation of technical competence required to hold up heavy themes.
The adventure will take your party from level 3 to level 6 across approximately 40-50 hours of play, with plenty of both hack and slash and roleplay. The wilderness map of over 100x100 squares is filled to the brim with danger and allows for a seamless transition from exploration to combat and back to exploration. While the .pdf will include a random encounter table to simulate the wilderness map, the virtual tabletop version allows your players to simply explore and look for entrances to any of the four different dungeons where the threats facing the town lair (as well as the wilderness camps of two more). It's entirely up to the players to decide what order to face these threats in. In the virtual tabletop version, it's entirely up to the players to even find most of them.
The town of Ramshorn itself is full of tiny vignettes and roleplay prompts the players may stumble across whenever they return to town to rest, as well as periodic faction events where the leadership of several factions meet for purposes festive or grim, giving the party a chance to make some powerful friends if they play their cards right (when all else fails, shake the Bard at it and hope for the best).
The importance of $1 backers cannot be overstated. Kickstarter gives visibility to projects based not on how much money they've raised, but how many backers a project has. Not only that, but my research indicates the average crowdfunding projects gets a full third of its money from people contributing $5 or less. Usually the majority of this comes from a vast swarm of $1 backers. If you believe in this project, be part of that swarm. $5 backers will also get at least two and possibly as many as five one-page RPGs based on the different factions, depending on how many stretch goals are met.
$15 backers get a copy of Petals and Thorns - normally priced at $20. Once brought to market, Petals and Thorns will sell for $19.99. As thanks for helping me bring the adventure to a wider audience, backers will get a copy for just a $15 pledge. Only 34 backers at this level are needed to fund the project completely, so each one of these backers is instrumental to raising the money needed to make this adventure a reality.
$25 backers will have their character integrated directly into the heart of the adventure - the town of Ramshorn. While different factions force players to pick sides, the town of Ramshorn is their home base no matter what. To help bring Ramshorn to life, the town has a chart containing dozens of vignettes that can be randomly rolled to provide roleplay prompts while the player characters are in town. Backers who give $25 will not only be included as an NPC, but have that NPC included in a vignette, making them part of the life of the town.
$50 backers will have their character featured prominently amongst the Ramshorn townsfolk. Ront, Bruen, Pilate, and Goldblum are the most important NPCs of Ramshorn, providing vital services to the group, and each is given a vignette with the others for a total of three. Backers at the $50 level will have their own set of three vignettes with three of these four, making them equal in prominence, not only present in the town but deeply entrenched in the community, a familiar face that players will see again and again. Backers at this level will also hopefully be able to have custom tokens commissioned for them to allow for representation of obscure races, however the availability of these custom tokens is subject to my artists' schedule and cannot be guaranteed.
$100 and $400 will have a drastically discounted, professionally run game of Petals and Thorns. I am a professional GM running a thriving business on Roll20, where my standard rate is $15 per player, per session. At $100 for an expected twelve session play through of Petals and Thorns, backers at this level not only get a chance to play the game as run by its creator, but do so at a discount of over 40%. The Medici-grade $400 backers get an even better deal, not only being able to reserve an entire playthrough for your own gaming group, but getting an even bigger discount on every player past the fourth, to say nothing of having almost single-handedly hit the original funding target.
This project hit its main funding goal and first two stretch goals way faster than I ever would've anticipated. I've been talking to various freelance artists about prices and hastily assembling a playtest for a Pathfinder conversion of one of the dungeons to double check whether the quick conversion I'm doing right now will actually work, or if I'm going to need to take a lot more time. As such, the cost on the Pathfinder conversion may drop significantly after I finish my emergency playtest, and the price on some of the art may come down as well as I get estimates in from more of the freelancers I've contacted. I've made the prices here as pessimistic as possible so that future information will bring them down, not up, which means if you check back in a few days you may find that the same amount of money has suddenly unlocked several more stretch goals.
In order to make sure the adventure is ready to ship by November as promised, I'm talking with several different token artists in addition to Devin Night. I can't commit to any specific artists yet, but all of them have fairly compatible styles, so the differences in art style shouldn't be jarring. With enough money, this adventure will ship with an Avengers-style team-up of Roll20's mightiest artists behind it.
$800: A .pdf version (reached!) - By popular demand, the first stretch goal is a version of the adventure with regular boring encounter tables instead of giant maps that can be freely explored. All $15 backers will receive a .pdf version by December in addition to the virtual tabletop version that will be out in November.
$1,000: Ramshorn tokens (reached!) - Rather than using the exact same two standard villager tokens over and over again, the major NPCs of Ramshorn will now have unique tokens that will make them stand out from the crowd and be easier to find when you want to sell some stuff or buy some new armor or whatever.
$1,400: Pathfinder conversion (reached!) - Another popular request, the adventure will be converted to Pathfinder. All $15 backers will receive both .pdfs and virtual tabletop versions of the Pathfinder adventure by January.
$1,700: Hireling tokens (reached!) - The current hirelings use a lot of repeat tokens, not only with other allied or enemy NPCs, but also often with one another, which can make it hard to distinguish them from each other in town when the PCs are picking which one to hire, and sometimes even in combat, since some of them currently have tokens in common with enemies. At this level, each hireling will have a custom token to make them stand out from each other, the townspeople, and the opposition.
$2,000: Vlatla tokens (reached!) - The Vlatla Clan have lost control of their skeletal horde, which now threatens to break free from their catacomb and overrun Ramshorn. As the faction whose headquarters is right on Ramshorn's doorstep, I've decided to prioritize the Vlatlas to receive unique tokens for their leadership and minions. I'll also produce a one-page RPG based on the Vlatla Clan for all backers $5 and up.
$2,200: Third Eye and goblin tokens (reached!) - While the other factions arrive in force, the Third Eye are a more distant and restrained presence in Ramshorn. Though the wizards of the Eye are frightfully powerful, they are also few in number, and at least as valuable due to their connections with the Lion and the Vlatlas as because of their sheer might. What this means for stretch goals is that they don't have mook squads the way the other factions do, which means getting unique tokens for them is much easier. Given that, it's easy enough to slip the goblins in with them. This stretch goal will also see the release of a one-page RPG based on the Third Eye for all backers $5 and up.
$2,500: Orders of the forest tokens (reached!) - The Order of the Bear and the Order of the Wyrd once kept the peace in the Great Forest together. Ever since the catastrophic battle with the Great Hive broke the back of the Order of the Bear, those times are past. Now the Bear are little more than bandits extorting money from Ramshorn, their former alliance with the Wyrd forsaken. At this level, both of these factions will be brought to life with unique tokens, not just the same "ranger" and "bandit" token stamped down over and over again. I'll also produce a one-page RPG based on the Order of the Wyrd for backers $5 and up.
$2,800: Order of the Lion tokens (reached!) - The Order of the Lion are by far the largest military presence in the Eastern Frontier, and the most powerful potential ally Ramshorn could ask for - which also makes them the deadliest potential enemy. At this nice, round number, just about everything in Ramshorn and its environs will have unique tokens. Just like the last three, this stretch goal also includes a one-page RPG based on the Order of the Lion.
$3,200: Backer tokens (reached!) - Let's not forget our backer NPCs. With enough funding, the backers at the $50 level will not only appear in multiple vignettes, their town NPC will also appear with a unique token. This level may get bumped up the ladder if there's enough demand. The last of my five planned one-page RPGs goes here, this one based on the Lunatic Court.
$4,000: More illustrations - At this level, I can commission more illustrations to use as chapter headers in the .pdf and handouts for the virtual tabletop version, all to the same standard as seen in the cover art in the video and below.
Questions or Comments?
Chamomile Has A Discord, you can get in touch with me there, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
Petals and Thorns is complete and playable as-is. What I lack is the commercial license to use the art assets used for creating the adventure. I have custom tokens from Devin Night coming in October. At the conclusion of this Kickstarter, I'll have the funds I need to pay Gabriel Pickard for usage of his maps in a commercial product, which will require no additional effort on his part. Petals and Thorns will be ready by mid-November at the latest, and the only thing that can possibly slow that down is if me, Devin, or Gabriel get hit by a truck.
Fulfilling backer rewards (except the product itself) and stretch goals on time is less of a 100% guarantee, although I have added plenty of pad time to help ensure they are delivered early rather than late. Anything that requires further writing from me or further art from one of the freelancers I employ is subject to our availability, and may end up delayed if one or more of us becomes unexpectedly busy, especially if I'm forced to switch out one of my artists mid-way through for some reason.
All adventures require approval from the Roll20 staff in order to be published to their Marketplace. I contacted them regarding Petals and Thorns a week before the project launched, but so far have not seen a response. I suspect this is either because the Roll20 staff is too busy to deal with low priority emails right now or else that they are waiting to see how the Kickstarter performs before making a commitment one way or another. I don't see any reason why Roll20 wouldn't want my product on their service and I don't actually need to be on the Marketplace to distribute copies of the finished campaign to backers, however until they confirm their approval, it is theoretically possible that they will go out of their way to prevent me from distributing my content on their platform. In this case I will rebuild it for another virtual tabletop service using the same Devin Night and Gabriel Pickard art assets. The finished product will be identical, but if I am forced to rebuild the project on another platform, that may cause delays.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)