About this project
After the kickstarter...
Once the kickstarter is over, this project page becomes locked (so as to prevent shenanigans, I assume). Post-kickstarter updates can be found at this web page:
What is this?
What if all of the systems that were supplanted by science prevailed? That is, what if science lost? For example: What if alchemy rose to prominence instead of chemistry? What if numerology were the main branch of mathematics? What if the four humours were our explanation of human behavior, rather than psychology? What if the reading of goat entrails were the most accurate method of weather prediction?
From dark alleys to high-street shops trepanning, séances, and blood-letting would be commonplace.
In Dust, Fog, and Glowing Embers, you enter a world at the cusp of its industrial age. You embody characters that have to face a world in which all kinds of strange physical laws apply. This is a science-fiction game, although from the perspective of a version of the proto-industrial past. Your characters are special because they have access to spagyric essences (plant-based alchemical substances that allow them to become as rarefied as mist, light fires by exuding sparks, or whip up dust storms to blind their enemies), which make them the perfect tool for unsavoury people to exploit.
Your pledge will help to create a book (in PDF and print-on-demand formats) that contains the rules and setting of this table-top role-playing game. Aside from pencils, dice, paper, and compatriots, the book will contain all that you need to start telling stories in the world of Dust, Fog, and Glowing Embers.
Media that's somewhat adjacent
The BioShock (1, 2, and Infinite) and Fallout (1, 2, 3, NV, and 4) video games are inspirations. The extant table-top RPG Into the Odd has a similar setting. Vampire: The Masquerade has similar powers. From Bioshock and Vampire, I want to take the idea of having incredible powers that feel like they are slowly corrupting you. From Fallout and Into the Odd, I want to take the idea of a setting that is gritty and oppressive and anachronistic, while still being darkly funny.
This game uses the same core dice mechanics as our previous game The Indie Hack, in which two dice are rolled, one Light, one Dark. The Dark Die represents the character’s prowess. The Light Die represents the challenge that the character faces. The highest result is the winner, with degrees of success based on the difference between the two dice results. Of course, you will add one of your three attributes, namely, Tough, Precise, or Clever, to your Dark Die result.
The main units of narrative that you'll be adding to the story are called details. Details are properties or conditions (e.g., the ornate pistol you found in the cellar of the judge's manor might have the details Rusted and Engraved with occult symbols). Details are written down when they are added to a character, scene, enemy, or item, and are crossed out when they are no longer applicable. The better your dice result, the more details you get to add.
The core rules shared by The Indie Hack and Dust, Fog, and Glowing Embers are available in a System Reference Document, which you can use to start making your own hacks: https://scablandspress.com/srd/
Your character is a wretch, an undesirable, an outsider, a pariah. You turn to a Patron to better your life; they exploit you to enrich theirs. They give you spagyric essences to grant you incredible powers, but these substances take a significant toll.
Fleshing out characters and additional world-building occurs at the start of the game. Once you have your group at the table, you follow these steps to create a gamut of complex outcomes:
- Create your Patron; your Patron's lusts will dictate the kinds of tasks you must complete (or risk losing their favour).
- Choose your character type, from among Raven, Swan, and Phoenix. Take extreme attributes, more aptitudes, or a balance.
- Answer several questions about your place in the world. Where can you never go, and why? How long has it been since you last saw your lover, and why? What causes you the most resentment about being a lackey, and why? What makes you want to destroy your Patron, and why can't you?
- Choose your spagyric powers. Exude cinders to light rooms or start fires, whip up sand to sharpen swords or blind foes, become mist to avoid attacks or slide under doors.
- Choose your prime humour, among melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric, and sanguine. Your personality evolves mechanically as you interact with NPCs.
The City of Stome
The City of Stome lies at the heart of Our Commonwealth. The streets are built upon layers spanning hundreds of years of compacted waste, bodies, and ruins. The streets are filled with horses, cheroot smoke, and fog. While walking, you pass cloaked, soot-smudged, sweat-sticky people.
The main districts of Stome have their distinct flavours:
- Black Hall and the Inner Courts - The Government of Our Commonwealth, including its courts and police stations
- The Promenade - A pathway good for brisk walks (enjoyed by lovers and muggers alike)
- The Eastern Heights - Opulent manor-houses far from the smog, but with their own (subtler, more insidious) dangers
- The Circuit - Factories and slaughterhouses around a ring road
- The Wold - Temples of all faiths and vast cemeteries
Beyond the city are farms, forests, and fields, but also:
- The Fens - A corridor of swampy wasteland, home only to odd beasts
- The Felnwol Caves - Labyrinthine sandstone passages hiding riches from ages past
- The Undercity - Black markets and enigmatic characters (worthwhile if you can stand the smells)
Each district will have random tables of themed events that can be used (by the players or the GM) to drag the players into unexpected conflicts and offer unexpected rewards when they "Go looking for trouble". A sample is shown below.
The nation simply known as Our Commonwealth, unlike Stome, is not yet well defined. We hope to expand upon it in various ways via stretch goals from talented folks in the online RPG community.
The core team
Slade Stolar - Has written the engine and setting of the game.
Dirk Leichty - Has drawn some amazing artwork, and will draw yet more. You can see a handful of excellent examples on this Kickstarter page.
Oli Jeffery - Will be doing layout to give this game polish. There's a sampling below (note that the text and page numbers are not final).
The music that you hear in the video is The Spirit of Russian Love (violin) by Zinaida Trokai by Kosta T. I think it's beautiful and haunting.
Why we need you
We are asking for your financial support and input (as creative GMs and players) to complete this project in a way that is professional, comprehensive, and effortlessly usable. Art and layout of this high quality can get expensive, and a broad supporter base reduces per-unit costs. Additionally, in many ways, it is impossible for us to know how you would play this game; no amount of internal playtesting would be sufficient to address all the issues that might arise (even ones that are obvious to your group), that is, the powers of the game could be very unbalanced if approached differently. We want to locate and solve any such issues, and to cite you as contributors to the rules. Furthermore, we want this game to be hackable; we need to know how to make the core ruleset work for you beyond the world of Dust, Fog, and Glowing Embers.
Note that all submissions by Contributors and Patrons are subject to in-good-taste approval by Scablands Press.
The current budget is as follows:
Kickstarter Goal: $2,200 CAD
- Artwork – $800 CAD, which includes the cover and over 15 illustrations in the style seen above, such as enemies, characters, items, and a map
- Layout – $340 CAD, which means creating pages like those above; backgrounds, ink splats, and other embellishments
- Editing – $530 CAD, which means professional editing of the document
- Fees and Taxes – $530 CAD, which seems high, but includes my income taxes for the KS funds (I will declare this as income) and the KS-based fees
$3,500 CAD - [UNLOCKED!] - A Walking Tour of Stome, Vol. 1: Four Adventuring Locations in PDF by Jason Cordova, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
Hestyr’s Mill - This small village in the Fens, and the farms surrounding it, used to provide the city with much of its grain. But then the work was turned over to the machines, iron devil-hulks heaving with wheels and belts and blades, and the people of Hestyr’s Mill were left with naught but their petty grievances to occupy their days. No one has heard from the village in years.
The Ruby Palace Exhibit - An exhibition of international renown, a veritable maze of wonders! See! The tarot card collection of the Empress of Bazhir! See! The Yak Men of the North and their new method for the reading of entrails! See! Three hitherto undiscovered colors of ectoplasm! Around every corner is something new to titillate, educate, and delight!
The Albion Pettigrew School for Boys and Snakes - One of the most prestigious boarding schools in the city, and a highly regarded institution for the study of vipers, snakes and serpents. Boys at the Pettigrew school receive a world-class education in discipline, etiquette, and the various serpentine mysteries, including the reading of scales and the translation of hisses. It is no mistake the city’s very best snake handlers are usually accompanied by rapturous cheers of “You can always tell a Pettigrew man!”
The Panoptica - This small neighborhood is filled with people whose humours are... somewhat out of balance. Less charitable citizens say the residents of the Panoptica are hopelessly mad, but this rather reductive view disregards the opportunity for serious scientific inquiry. What secrets can be learned from their wailing and raving? Are there mysteries to be unlocked from observing their bizarre, elliptical behavior? What can we learn from the fact they have taken to trading their own teeth as currency?
$4,000 CAD - [UNLOCKED!] - The Burialmounds, a setting PDF by Thomas Novosel, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
When the flesh begins to harden, the skin starts to crack, and the mind becomes scattered across the wind, it is a sign. It is a sign that your existence can no longer hold itself together after you have--time and again--weakened it. You blow away, only to materialize on the Burialmounds. This floating mass of dirt and consciousness pulls itself through the sky with tendrils of rattling chains. It is a prison for those who have abused the spagyric powers that have been discovered.
The Burialmounds is where spagyrists often find themselves when they can no longer hold their bodies together on their own. It acts as an anchor for the warped and anatomically volatile that drifts aimlessly across the lands and seas, holding The Damaged, Vultures (a new player class), and powers that only the most broken may conjure from the void beyond this world.
$4,500 CAD - [UNLOCKED!] - A Walking Tour of Stome, Vol. 2: The Ruination of Orgone in PDF by Kate Bullock, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
The Ruination of Orgone - Before the fall of Desmond Benzie and his family, the great castle of Orgone belonged to them. In a wicked night of rebellion, the castle was burned and its occupants imprisoned within its depths for all eternity. Fifty years later, the burnt out husk of the castle has become home to the National Orgone Exhbition, a world faire of modern invention, tantalizing delights, and the most expansive bazaar ever seen.
Explore the depths of Herchel’s Bazaare, full of everything from love to dreams to memories and promises. Trade for things you have never experienced, bargain for the memories of the dead, and purchase the love you have never been able to possess. In a world where straw can be spun into gold, value lies in the unattainable. What will you be willing to part with to walk away with all you have dreamt of? What strange experiences will Orgone offer you and will you be able to resist the call of her hidden chambers?
$5,000 CAD - [UNLOCKED!] - A Walking Tour of Stome, Vol. 3: The Neighbourhood of Nokes in PDF by Rich Rogers, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
The Neighbourhood of Nokes - White Cross is the latest alchemical drug of choice for those souls who’ve fallen between the cracks of the barely middle-class neighborhood of Nokes. Crossers enjoy a lift in their humors from inhaling the substance, all for a pittance. That was, until the lab run by the beloved Dr. Price exploded a month ago... accident or sabotage? Those "in the know”? Well, they knew that Price's lab was the primary source of White Cross. Now the remnants of the building stand like a broken skeleton with a light yellowish haze floating like a mournful halo around it. The capricious winds of Nokes often carry the ashes of White Cross along to her citizens. Inhaling this unmixed substance causes an occasional odd reaction from passersby.
Discover what impacts White Cross had on Nokes’ survivors and how the festering sore of Dr. Price’s lab is still affecting people. Meet a cutpurse who’s upgraded his station to “professional shopper”, visit a rather special Milliner’s store, and uncover the mysteries of Nokes.
$8,000 CAD - [Locked] The Monstrous Hack (a stand-alone game) in PDF by M. P. O'Sullivan, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
The torch of enlightenment shines, marking the path to humanity's future. Concealed by the shadows cast by that flickering flame are the creatures that haunt the folk tales and family histories of mankind–the ancient vampire, the slavering undead, the twisting elder thing. Standing guard at that twilight space between light and shadow are the outcasts–strange monsters that think like men, and humans too odd to live among their own kind. Bound together in fellowship, only they stand a chance against the massing horrors that stalk mankind.
This is The Monstrous Hack, a game of gothic horror and fantasy adventure set in a haunted 19th century. TMH draws inspiration from classic gothic and romantic works such as Frankenstein and Dracula, as well as modern adventure tales like Hellboy and the Witcher. Here you will play as characters inspired by classic works of gothic and romantic horror, such as the Blood Drinker, the Hunter, the Created, and the Witch. Together, your band of misfits are all that stands between humanity and destruction at the hands of any number of primordial and weird horrors.
$12,000 CAD - [Locked] Another Mystery Setting Supplement, given to all at Digital Copy level and above.
$16,000 CAD - [Locked] A high-quality hardcover digital offset print run. Heavy paper. Rich ink. Available to all at Digital + PoD Physical Copy level and above; just pay printing and shipping (however, at the Digital + Physical Copy Shipped to You level, don't pay anything more).
Every $4,000 CAD thereafter - [Locked] ???
More stretch goals will be revealed as they are unlocked.
Printing and shipping are always difficult parts of planning a kickstarter that involves a book. We are working with DriveThruRPG.com to bring you high-quality physical print-on-demand products and integration with a massive online collection of existing role-playing games at the lowest possible prices.
Print-on-demand books will ship from the United States or the United Kingdom. Estimated standard shipping prices for softcover books are as follows (all prices in USD):
- USA - $5 USD
- UK - $6 USD
- Germany - $7 USD
- France - $8 USD
- Canada - $7 USD
- Australia - $12 USD
Using DriveThru, you can combine your physical print-on-demand reward with other items to reduce your per-item shipping costs.
Additionally, you'll be able to choose your print quality:
- Standard quality softcover - $4 USD
- Premium quality softcover - $14 USD
- Standard quality hardcover - $9 USD
- Premium quality hardcover - $19 USD
Note that final printing costs will be based on final page count.
DriveThruRPG lets us at Scablands focus on making the best possible product, rather than worrying about fulfillment.
If you have other questions, feel free to shoot an email over to office <at> scablandspress <dot> com
Risks and challenges
At Scablands, we mitigate risks and face challenges; to that end, we have made this project small and manageable. Periodically, we will provide playable draft PDFs to backers, so that people can play the game and see that we are on track. Oli and Dirk have consistently done high-quality work for games and zines. Furthermore, we have worked with DriveThru in the past to get table-top role-playing games into the hands of eager fans.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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