Flotsam (/flɒts(ə)m/) noun.
- The wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea.
- People or things that have been rejected or discarded as worthless.
Flotsam: Adrift Amongst the Stars is a roleplaying game about outcasts, renegades and misfits living in the belly of a space station, in the shadow of a more prosperous society. You play through their everyday lives, interpersonal relationships and small-scale drama in the Below, a dangerous world where poverty, social strife and gang conflict sit side-by-side with alien technology and supernatural weirdness.
Imagine the Belters of the Expanse watching as Earth and Mars shape their lives, the civilians in Battlestar Galactica living with the decisions made by the military and the folk of Downbelow in Babylon 5, abandoned to destitution and squalor by those who built the station. This game is about characters like that.
The game is GMless and diceless, with rules that point your characters at each other and bring their relationships into sharp focus. They help you create a rich setting, flawed characters, and charged relationships which develop over time. You'll watch your characters evolve and change before your eyes. It's really cool.
"Josh has put together something really interesting here - there's glimpses of a larger setting through the world, but it only comes out through the lenses of the characters. Very clever stuff."
- Grant Howitt, co-designer of The Spire RPG
"Josh always puts a lot of care into his games. Lovecraftesque is one of my favorite games from the last few years, and I’m excited about what he’s doing with Flotsam. He has demonstrated he understands what makes the Powered by the Apocalypse engine tick, but is also willing to challenge the assumptions underlying it, and that is very cool."
- Jason Cordova, The Gauntlet
The game needs 3-5 people to play. It gives everyone a Primary character to play and a Situation to run the rest of the time, so you’ll be fully engaged in the game at all times, and every scene will harness the full creative power of the group. Clean, simple rules enable you to juggle those roles without difficulty, even if you're not used to playing without a GM. There's a one-page overview of how the game flows below, and you get access to the full draft rules immediately when you back the game.
"It felt like taking a small step towards GMing" - Sue Elliott, playtester
Your Primary character might be:
- The Thunder, a gang leader or law enforcer
- The Spider, a trader, spymaster or criminal
- The Voice, a cultist, community leader or demagogue
- The Cast-Off, a drifter and freelancer
- The Sybyl, a prophetess with uncanny powers
- The Hybrid, a blend of human and something else (AI, alien, god)
You could push forward a Situation like:
- The Community’s social strife and internal divisions
- The relentless effects of Poverty
- The Gangs who run things down here
- The Above, a more prosperous and powerful society
- The Spirits who inhabit this place
- The people and things that come and go from Outside the station
"A wonderful, evolving story of the tangled relationships of people trapped in very difficult circumstances" - Simon Miller, playtester
Flotsam is all about the way your characters’ personal issues and relationships develop over the time. And it’s designed to unleash the creativity of your gaming group to produce a completely unique setting. As such, it’s at its best when played as a campaign, so you’ve got time to make those things happen.
However, the game also includes quick-start scenarios which enable you to leap straight into a tense social situation full of charged relationships, perfect for one-shot play. You can play a satisfying Flotsam scenario in 3-4 hours.
Backers can find the full draft rules, with a quickstart pack, in the first update to this campaign.
A short, simple summary of how the rules work is here:
You can see a short example of Actual Play here:
Who am I, and why should you trust me with your money?
I’m Josh Fox. I’m the co-creator of Lovecraftesque, the critically acclaimed GMless horror game, which has been nominated for several major awards. I'm one half of Black Armada Games (with Becky Annison). I’ve produced numerous smaller games which you can find on our website blackarmada.com.
I’m a qualified project manager, so I know a thing or two about managing product delivery. This is my second kickstarter. The first was a success and ran smoothly, because I carefully researched how to do RPG kickstarters, what the potential pitfalls were and how to avoid them, and planned meticulously. I’ve learned even more about how to do them since then.
If you’d like to know a bit about the lessons I’ve learned and see my approach to delivering an RPG product, you can read a series of articles I wrote about it here.
Why do the prices look so weird?
The project is UK-based, so the prices are in pounds sterling. Kickstarter will automatically convert them into your local currency, which might mean prices that look a bit weird. Don't worry about this.
Why am I raising funds?
Flotsam is already written and playtested. I want your backing to pay for four things:
- Professional layout by Stianín Jackson.
- Beautiful art by Anna Landin and Claudia Cangini
- A print run to get the book out to bricks and mortar stores
- Additional quick-start scenarios (stretch goals)
Here's a chart showing how I estimate the costs will shake out if I make the initial funding goal exactly.
Notice the contingency. That's 10% of the total budget (excluding the kickstarter fee). I've included this because you never know what's going to happen, or whether prices might increase, or what I might have underestimated. If it isn't all spent, I'll divide the remainder equally between the core team (Anna, Claudia, Stí and myself).
Who is working on the project?
How are you handling delivery and shipping?
I will be printing the books in the UK. From there I'll send one shipment of books to a delivery partner in the USA for fulfilment direct to US customers. Customers elsewhere in the world will receive their books from a UK-based delivery partner. This has enabled me to offer good-value shipping to destinations worldwide. I do not anticipate any change to UK customs status in the EU before this project is fulfilled, meaning the project will be EU-friendly.
If you choose a physical reward you'll pay your shipping cost as part of your pledge. The rates are £5 for UK/US, £8 for EU, and £10 for the rest of the world. (That's about $6.50/$11/$13 US respectively.)
What's in the book?
The book will include the rules to the game, with great guidance on not just what to do, but how to get the best from the game. You'll get the six playbooks and situation sheets listed above, each of which is packed with little nuggets of evocative detail to help you collaboratively build your vision of the Below and set up charged relationships and situations to get your game going. There will also be some quickstart scenarios with pre-generated characters and relationships for one-shot play. And there's a teaching guide to help you get your group up to speed fast.
The exact size of the book depends on the funds we raise, but you can expect it to be around 150 pages, give or take.
Can I see samples of the art and layout?
Of course you can!
Above is a sample of the layout Stí will do for Flotsam.
Above is the front cover Anna has created for Flotsam; if we meet our target she'll create more illustrations for the game, and the more we raise the more art we'll include.
The back of the book will show the same scene, but from the outside of the station. So cool!
Above is a sample illustration Claudia done for Flotsam. Again, the more funding we raise, the more art she'll be creating for us!
A word on how I handle stretch goals: I will be paying my writers 10 cents (or local equivalent) per word, on completion of the work. I have budgeted for stretch goals, factoring in pay for my writers, layout costs, and additional printing and shipping costs. If you're interested in how I'm managing my stretch goals, check out the "risks and challenges" section below.
The stretch goals are primarily scenarios. These will, at a minimum, be produced as PDF documents which all backers at "discount digital" and above will receive. I anticipate including them in the book as well, but as there are limits on how big I want the book to get, some may be digital-only.
At most of the stretch goals levels I'll increase the art budget, meaning more illustrations as well as the specific goals listed below.
Where did you get the music for that video, it is sweet!
The music is "Implosion" by Magna Ingress. You can get it for FREE here.
Risks and challenges
Flotsam is already written and playtested. There’s some editing to do
and, if we get enough funds, our stretch goals will yield additional scenarios to add to the text. But the main text is ready to go.
I hope to deliver a number of great scenarios, if I meet my stretch goals. I treat these as a serious commitment. I will do my best to ensure that every one of them is delivered if at all possible. But I recognise that delivering through other people involves risk - people can get sick, or get busy with real life, or otherwise be unable to come through. I actively project manage people who contribute material to my games. As a last resort I may reassign a scenario to an alternate author or release it as a separate PDFs rather than including it in the game book, if this is necessary to avoid significant delays to the core product.
Another risk is the art. This carries basically the same risks as the scenarios, but unlike the scenarios, they're part of the core product and can't be published separately. My timetable is based on conservative assumptions about how quickly the art can be delivered. I'll monitor delivery of the art closely and work with my artists to adjust plans if there are major delays.
This isn't my first kickstarter: the previous one, Lovecraftesque, was delivered smoothly. One thing I did there which I'll be repeating here is keeping you up-to-date with regular, but not excessive, updates. Even when nothing much is happening you should receive an update at least monthly, to keep you informed on how things are progressing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)