Endgame Stretch Goals:
$4,000 - An extra 8 pages of content to "The Wings in the Dark" where our humble investigator will go into the history of Wyvern Rock.
$5,000 - A further 8 pages for "The Wings in the Dark" including a map of the town and surrounding area.
The farmer is frantic. She claims that the goblins came and took her youngest, but the soldiers do not seem interested. "We've heard this one before, Bren," the annoyed sergeant says, "I'm not sending a patrol out only to find her sleeping in the woods again." The woman notices the adventurers watching and turns to them, begging for help, telling a story of bright lights, pale figures, and screaming into the cold night's sky.
Scouting ahead in the deep woods, the elf moves through the brush silently. Sensing movement ahead in a small clearing, she pauses, carefully peering through the brush. Orcish warbands have been coming farther and farther south of late and she cannot risk an encounter until the rest of her party catches up. She sighs in relief - it's just an owl. Bright white in the moonlight, it turns to regard her with deep black eyes. Her last thought before her companions rouse her hours later is, "Wait. Owls don't stand four feet tall?"
The inn should be warm and inviting, what with the roaring fire and the large pot of stew bubbling away over it, but T'rank and Jeffeth find it anything but. Seated alone at the center table is a figure dressed in pristine black riding clothes, a dark strip of cloth wrapped around its head covering its eyes. The blindfold does not seem to hamper its vision as it slowly dips a spoon into the bowl of stew before it. Deliberately, it raises the spoon to its mouth, but there's no food in it as the spoon is upside down? Puzzled, it raises the utensil to examine it, turning it slowly between black gloved figures as if it has seen a spoon for the first time. The inn keep breaks the figure's reverie when he plunks down a full mug of ale next to seven other equally filled mugs at the figure's table. The figure drops the spoon, its blindfolded gaze felt by T'rank and Jeffeth. "Tell me what you saw," it whispers, its lips moving slightly slower than the words. "Then forget...."
I was really excited to learn about the Zine Quest initiative here on Kickstarter. Zines are foundational to a wide swath of subcultures from gaming to music to social activism and beyond. The 'beyond' in my case, is in the field of UFOlogy. When you think of modern accounts of aliens and UFOs, you might not realize that a lot of what you know from popular culture was actually born out of zines back in the day. The old UFO zines, if you can find them, are amazing resources. They detail alien encounters, sightings of strange cryptids, all that good stuff, but they do it from the dawn of the movement, before the zeitgeist gelled around what a 'standard' alien encounter looks like in the mid 80s.
There is a parallel between the zines featuring early RPG content and those featuring UFO content. In a way, they both were testing grounds for new concepts, new scenarios. Those that took off would become accepted parts of the culture, while those that did not would dangle like vestigial tails, evolutionary dead ends. Thanks to the internet, there's been a bit of a resurgence in mining these old ideas and since we now live in a remix culture, I'd like to combine them and a zine seems like a great way to get started.
UFOs and fantasy gaming do have a bit of a shared past beyond both relying on zines in their early days. H.G. Wells, one of the fathers of science fiction who helped define what aliens wanted in The War of the Worlds, also was an avid gamer who published his own rules in Little Wars some fifteen years later. Gary Gygax brought a crashed spaceship masquerading as a dungeon to conventions in the form of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The derro, that race of degenerate underground dwarves, share a lot of traits with the dero, another degenerate underground race promoted as part of The Shaver Mystery. So while UFOs and fantasy roleplaying are not at the 'chocolate and peanut butter' level, they're pretty soundly 'chocolate and cayenne pepper' tier.
What is High Strangeness?
For What Happened at Wyvern Rock?, I'd like to focus on the concept of High Strangeness and how you can use it to add some fun complications to your fantasy setting. High Strangeness is a concept introduced by Dr. J. Alan Hyneck (now seen being played by Littlefinger on the History Channel's Project Blue Book) that covers the weird elements of UFOlogy, those experiences that cannot be directly explained or quantified. This is the weird stuff, weirder than just seeing a flying saucer - it's the unreality that often accompanies a sighting - animals not behaving as they should, mysterious figures lurking at the fringes, dreams and visions and prophecies and...
Oof! One of the first parts of What Happened at Wyvern Rock? is to go into High Strangeness and how it can manifest in your campaign. I'll save the in-depth description for there, so for simplicity's sake, I'll point to some High Strangeness examples in modern pop culture - The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, the 'Jose Chung's From Outer Space' episode of The X-Files, and 'High Strangeness' from Adventure Time. Like I said, this is the weird stuff!
Swords and Saucery
One of the biggest ideas I'm looking forward to exploring is how exactly to incorporate the concept of High Strangeness into an already strange world. Would a farmer who often trades with dwarves or halflings, keeps an eye out for goblin and orc raiding parties, and attends a church overseen by an elf freak out upon seeing a Grey alien? If they saw a glowing light in the sky, would they be bothered or would they think it was just a wizard flying home?
Taking a further step back, would a player be bothered? They know that everything they encounter in game has a sort of grounding to it in the form of dice rolls and rules. They are not overly worried by encountering new creatures and they can source the origins of that creature to a published resource. If the creature is too much for their character, that's on the GM. Think about how players react to a puzzle versus how they react to a new monster - while trial and error occurs in both, the former has a lot more effort put in to figuring out the puzzle's internal logic, assuming of course the player has not already read up on that particular monster in advance of the game session. By making the nature of the monsters a puzzle in itself, I hope to enhance player engagement at your table.
If you're familiar with John Keel or Jacques Vallée, you're aware of the idea that there is an intelligence behind High Strangeness. I really like the idea that by making What Happened at Wyvern Rock?, we are taking that role upon ourselves.
On This Rock I Build My...
Wyvern Rock is my generic fantasy setting that I'll use to discuss these concepts and set up encounters. You are obviously free to take what you like and ignore the rest. Should this zine blossom into something bigger, then a full campaign setting will be on offer, but before that happens, I'd like to get a zine of three under my belt! Until then, I want this to be useful to as many people as possible, so Wyvern Rock and its environs can be slotted into almost any rural area in your existing setting. The rock itself, named after the flying lizards that once roosted there, looms large on the horizon.
My goal is to create the first issue of a zine focusing on introducing the High Strangeness of modern UFO encounters into fantasy roleplaying games. The zine will be 64 pages long and printed professionally by Kickstarter-recommended Smartpress. Issue #1 of What Happened at Wyvern Rock? will include:
- An Introduction to the World of High Strangeness - Plus how to apply it to a fantasy campaign setting.
- Random Close Encounter Tables - From sightings to experiences, these tables will help you roll out the weird in puzzling, engaging dollops.
- Scenario Hooks Based on ‘real’ UFO Encounters - Some of my favorites include the Hopkinsville Goblins, Cisco Grove, and the Travis Walton Experience.
- Species Spotlight - A look at the Greys, their goals, and how they may interact with your fantasy campaign setting.
The entire zine will be illustrated using my hand carved blockprints. Many of these prints already exist and are ready to be pressed and scanned right now. You can even see a few stuck in on this page or on my social media @coreypress (Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook). Without a doubt, I’ll carve up some new ones specifically for this project.
My plan is to keep the content of this zine rules light - my familiarity is mostly with the extended d20 family of fantasy RPGs and I don’t want to exclude an alien invasion at a table running Pendragon, GURPS, or a homebrew system. Where I can, I’ll offer options for reskinning creatures or effects. This is not to say dice and rules won’t be in the zine, just that I hope to keep it as generic as possible.
I’m deliberately keeping this Kickstarter campaign simple and straightforward. This is my first go around and my #1 goal is to get a completed project that we're happy with into your hands in a timely manner. If this campaign is successful, there will be further issues focusing on different elements of High Strangeness including cryptids (Mothman!), abduction experiences, and other alien races. I don't want too far ahead of myself, but if things appear to be going really well, I have a few stretch goals planned.
I chose August 2019 as my delivery date and feel confident I can make it. Ideally, I’d hope to have everything together and ready for the printer by the end of May, but from backing past Kickstarters, I’m fully aware how Life Happens and would much rather risk delivery early than late.
Hi! My name is Drew and I’ve been carving scenes of medieval UFO abductions for several years now. Each piece is hand carved, bound in ink, and pressed to wood by me here in Salem, MA under the shop name The Corey Press (get it?). I’ve also been a gamer since cracking open the Red Box one summer in 4th grade. Since then I’ve dabbled in the RPG industry - running LARPs in college, doing a bit of freelance editing during the d20 boom, and even drawing a few illustrations for Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World. I've been a fan of UFOs and the paranormal since I saw my first UFO - it was on the cover of a Time Life book at the library.
Process-wise, I embrace the DIY ethic that is common among zine makers. I'm largely self-taught and the challenge of figuring out how to do something new is a large part of what drew me to this project. I hope you can join me on this wacky adventure.
My influences are the works of John Keel, Charles Fort, Jacques Vallée, David Paulides, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, and anyone else who looks at the weirder aspects of the paranormal (Sorry, Stanton!). Podcasts are a great source of inspiration as well - a few of the podcasts I listen to as I carve include Mysterious Universe, Last Podcast on the Left, and Bigfoot Collector's Club. I pretty much grew up with Dungeons and Dragons, went through my Vampire: The Masquerade phase in college, and continued to pick up books even when life was to busy to play. My eight year old has recently expressed an interest in D&D and rolled up a pretty OP Elf Rogue, although my wife has forbidden me from giving him alien abduction nightmares.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this particular slice of madness! I hope you're one of the elect that dig both aliens and RPGs - I have high hopes for this project and look forward to getting to work!
Risks and challenges
This is my first Kickstarter, so I've set everything to be as simple as possible. Much of the illustration has already been carved and printed, a portion of the text written, and a printer has been lined up.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)