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Help fund the printing of Designers and Dragons, Shannon Appelcline's comprehensive, 4-volume history of the roleplaying game industry!
Help fund the printing of Designers and Dragons, Shannon Appelcline's comprehensive, 4-volume history of the roleplaying game industry!
3,046 backers pledged $115,348 to help bring this project to life.

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CLICK HERE to look at the TSR chapter to "try before you buy"!

If you've already backed the project, go HERE to download Designers & Dragons: The ’70s right now!

What Is Designers & Dragons?

Designers & Dragons is a four volume book series of RPG industry awesomeness, meticulously researched and prettily packaged. Author Shannon Appelcline guides you company by company through the history of tabletop starting in the 1970s all the way up to present day. This series is chock full of fascinating insider tidbits, company profiles, and yes—enough drama to fuel a hundred campaigns.

Evil Hat Productions is incredibly proud to produce this updated edition of Designers & Dragons. You may remember the first edition that came out from the lovely people at Mongoose Publishing—we'd wanted to publish it then, but missed the chance! So we leapt at the opportunity to take it on once their one-volume version went out of print. 

Even if you own the big black book (aka, the first edition), there’s still plenty of new material in this second edition—over 50,000 new words in the first volume alone. Our edition is fully expanded and extensively updated, a multi-volume set that won’t break your back, illustrated with pretty pictures of the games you remember fondly. RPG WIN! Bathroom reading victory! 

Why a History of Roleplaying Games?

This sort of thing is important! But don't take our word for it — here are some thoughts from folks throughout the industry:

Jason Morningstar:
Emily Care Boss: 
Chris Pramas:
Quinn Murphy:
Lilian Cohen Moore:
Peter Adkison:
Adam Koebel:
 Miranda Horner: 
Thor Olavsrud:
Mark Diaz Truman:
Jenn Brozek:
Ryan Macklin:
Marissa Kelly: 
Kenneth Hite:

Why Are We Kickstarting Designers & Dragons?

Pre-press production on Designers & Dragons: The ’70s is already complete, and it’s so gorgeous that it got us all riled up. We’re really excited about this project, and we want this first volume to have company. In short, we want to be able to print and release all four volumes at the same time. But...

... production and printing on each volume costs $10k or more, and the idea of producing all four volumes at once gives our financial people a case of nervous twitches. We want to make this happen responsibly so we can continue to produce the high quality products you’ve come to expect from Evil Hat Productions

This Kickstarter will enable our goal of printing more than just the 1970s volume at the same time. It will help cover the print runs and some of the costs for Volumes 2-4 so that we can do this right—and with full knowledge of how many of you out there are interested! Plus, if we hit our initial funding goal and our first two stretches, we'll be able to release the full set all at once. 

This Kickstarter gives us an opportunity to spread our excitement in more productive ways than running through the neighborhood whilst festooned with streamers and blaring horns. (And with less of a chance of getting arrested, which is a double win.) If you’re as thrilled as we are about the chance to dig into the history of our hobby, we hope you’ll help spread the word to people who feel the same. Seriously, these books are addictively awesome. They nearly drove us to festooning and horn-tootery, which we think says a lot.

Project Rewards & Goals

Each volume in the Designers & Dragons series will be a 6"x9" softcover, several hundred pages long, with black and white interior. Each decade's volume of Designers & Dragons covers dozens of companies founded in that decade and follows them through to their end, or the present day for those still with us.

Please note: Companies are generally listed by their best-known, or at least most-recent, name. So you might see something like Margaret Weis Productions listed above where it was originally known as Sovereign Press, and so on.


Designers & Dragons: The ’70s: Immediately available in multiple digital formats to our backers. Are you a backer? Go HERE to download your copy! 

Everything you’ve wanted to know about the origins of roleplaying games…

Designers & Dragons: The ’70s is a comprehensive picture of the beginnings of the RPG industry. The first in a four volume series, this book has more interesting tidbits than a hundred pop up videos. Learn about the colorful history of TSR and the wave of D&D inspired games (and gaming companies) to follow, and dip your toes into wargaming trivia. Whether you’re a long-time gamer who greets each mention of a ’70s title with “I remember that!” or a new-to-the-hobby sort who wants to know how we got here in the first place, Shannon Appelcline’s meticulously researched history won’t disappoint.

Meet the characters behind the characters and the gamers behind the games in Designers & Dragons: The ’70s!

Foreword by: Greg Stafford!

Companies covered include: TSR, Flying Buffalo, Games Workshop, GDW, Judges Guild, Metagaming Concepts, Fantasy Games Unlimited, Chaosium, Gamescience, Heritage Models, Grimoire Games, DayStar West Media, and Midkemia Press. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the ’70s, and an extensive bilbiography and index. All in all, over 50,000 new words over the previous edition!

Designers & Dragons: The ’80s: UNLOCKED! This project has funded at $7,500, so we'll be able to print the ’80s volume at the same time as the ’70s!

In this volume you'll get all the general awesomeness as described above, plus a free set of downloadable Ginsu knives (we're kidding, but we wish we weren't)! But this volume DOES have an in-depth look at ’80s style gaming courtesy of companies like Steve Jackson Games and West End Games, plus an intro to the small (but mighty!) presses of the decade.

Foreword by: Mike Pondsmith!

Companies covered include:  SPI, Task Force Games, Steve Jackson Games, FASA, Gamelords, ICE, Hero Games, Palladium Books, Leading Edge Games, Bard Games, Yaquinto Publications, Mayfair Games, Avalon Hill, Columbia Games, West End Games, SkyRealms Publishing, DGP, R. Talsorian, Lion Rampant, Pacesetter, New Infinities, Creations Unlimited, and Different Worlds Publications. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the ’80s, and an extensive bilbiography and index. This volume has about 10,000 new words added vs. the previous edition.

Designers & Dragons: The ’90s: UNLOCKED! We've reached $15,000, so we'll be able to print the ’90s volume at the same time as the ’70s and ’80s!

Just like the earlier volumes, plus a free Baywatch-themed gaming session with David Hasselhoff. No, not really. We’re kidding about that part, but hopefully we didn’t have to tell you that. But this volume does profile an RPG titan—Wizards of the Coast—not to mention cover the rise of storytelling RPG settings like White Wolf’s World of Darkness.

Foreword by: Peter Adkison!

Companies covered include: White Wolf, Atlas Games, Pagan Publishing, AEG, Phage Press, Dream Pod 9, Wizards of the Coast, Metropolis, Hogshead Publishing, Last Unicorn Games, Kenzer & Company, Grey Ghost Games, Imperium Games, Holistic Design, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Fantasy Flight Games, Guardians of Order, Eden Studios, Margaret Weis Productions, Green Knight Publishing, and Hekaforge. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the ’90s, and an extensive bilbiography and index. This volume has about 10,000 new words added vs. the previous edition.

Designers & Dragons: The ’00s: UNLOCKED! This project has reached $22,500 so we'll be able to print the ’00s volume at the same time as the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s!

In this most-updated volume of the series featuring thirteen new articles and dozens of revisions, you'll find all the awesomeness you’ve come to know and love by reading the summaries of the last three volumes, plus bonus kung fu action! Also an inside look at d20 companies like Green Ronin and Mongoose Publishing and at indie presses like those weirdos at Evil Hat Productions.

Foreword by: Lisa Stevens!

Companies covered include: Necromancer Games, Green Ronin Publishing, Troll Lord Games, Issaries, Pelgrane Press, Goodman Games, Privateer Press, Mongoose Publishing, Adept Press, Memento Mori Theatricks, Lumpley Games, Burning Wheel Headquarters, Paizo Publishing, Galileo Games, Atomic Sock Monkey, John Wick Presents, Bully Pulpit Games, Evil Hat Productions, Kobold Press, Cubicle 7 Entertainment, Post Human Studios, Fan Pro, Arc Dream Publishing, RedBrick, and Catalyst Game Labs. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the ’00s, and an extensive bilbiography and index. Hugely expanded from the prior edition — tens of thousands of additional words and a number of new companies.

UNLOCKED STRETCH GOALS: 

  • All four volumes, printed simultaneously!
  • Bookmark set!
  • We'll provide a print-on-demand hardcover edition for backers (and non-backers) to purchase separately after the campaign is over. Details in this update with some further information in this update.
  • A gallery of nostalgia-tweaking advertisements and company logos to backers at $15+. Details!
  • Shannon's yearly looks at the industry added to the Platinum Appendix. What's the Platinum Appendix? Details in this update!
  • Shannon will write a short history on the gaming group that released the first third-party supplement for Dungeons & Dragons, forever changing the game with the introduction of a thief player class. We'll add this to the Platinum Appendix. Details in this update!

How will I select my rewards?

First, pledge your reward level!

Soon after the campaign concludes, we'll send out surveys to folks getting the physical books. When the time comes, we will ask you to fully configure your rewards package over on backerkit.com—a well known third party pledge configuration service. (If using a third-party pledge configuration service is a problem for you, it's probably best to wait and buy our books when they reach distribution.) 

Backerkit will also make it possible for folks to add on additional books in case you forgot to pledge for them while the campaign was active. Bonus!

What Are My International Options?

Shipping kills, friends. Shipping kills. So be ready for that!

We've added a number of "BILL MY SHIPPING LATER" reward tiers for our international backers. Please make sure to read the relevant section in Update #3 so you can understand exactly how this will work and how high that later shipping charge will be!

The books will be made available for sale to the international market once they're in print, so if you'd rather wait, that's totally fine. There are also some other options to consider besides the BILL MY SHIPPING LATER reward tiers.

If you want to stay apprised of developments on this project, consider backing us at one of the digital levels—even for $1, a low-cost way to "subscribe" to this project's updates. 

Another good option is to contact a retailer closer to you and arrange for them to order the books you want! Evil Hat's books are distributed and sold to and by game retailers in multiple international markets, including Canada (served by Lion Rampant distribution), Australia (dependent on individual retailers placing orders with us), the United Kingdom (distributed by Esdevium to many stores in the UK and Europe, including Leisure Games), and Germany (often carried by Sphärenmeisters Spiele), for starters. 

Or you can find a way to effectively "pretend" to be a domestic backer by finding a person or organization in the US that can receive a package for you, then get it to you in a way you're willing to afford. (We've heard mention of Ship It To as one option, tho we have no experience with them ourselves.)

International retailers without a reliable distribution source for our books may pledge for the MASTER OF RETAIL reward tier—so long as you have a US-based address for us to ship to. Freight forwarders are your friend!

Credits

  • Shannon Applecline • Author and Researcher
  • John Adamus • Editor
  • Karen Twelves • Proofreader
  • Fred Hicks and Adam Jury • Layout
  • Richard Iorio • Kindle (mobi) & Nook (ePub) Conversions
  • Daniel Solis • Graphic Design
  • Andrew Bosley • Cover Art
  • Chris Hanrahan • Business Development
  • Carrie Harris • Marketing Manager
  • Sean Nittner • Project Manager 
  • Eric Vogel • Videocraft and Awesomeness
  • Paul Tevis • Voice of the Hat
  • Karen Twelves, Jennifer Baumgardner Warner, and Mia Blankensop • Voices of the Books
  • zacstucki • Music
  • And a special thanks to everyone who contributed their voices to our project, in the video, in the audio clips, and elsewhere!

Questions?

We love answering questions! If you have any for us, please ask in the comments, and we'll do our best to give you an answer quickly. You can also follow us on twitter at @EvilHatOfficial and on Facebook.

Risks and challenges

Evil Hat is an experienced RPG publisher. We've produced multiple printed role-playing games in a variety of physical formats over the past six-plus years. This is a non-fiction book series, which is markedly *less* challenging to produce than a RPG book.

Evil Hat's experience puts us in a fine position to take on the risks and challenges that arise—as with any project, experience tells us a few problems and bugaboos *will* arise.

Here's what we can anticipate as potential problems.

THE TEXT: While the editing and layout of several volumes is largely done, it's possible that we will identify some glaring issue that we need to address before we take this fully to publication. That can add time, for sure. Luckily we've got an editor, a proofreader, and a historian going over every sentence in close detail, so we feel we have this under control.

PRINTING: Our company has grown up alongside the big boom in digital short-run printing technology. Thanks to the advances made there, we'll be able to print the book in any quantity we need. But printers can run into problems all the same: supply shortages, unexpected delays due to company holidays or industry events, or simply goofing up the manufacture or shipping of the books in some way. With a number of potential domestic printers to use, we'll always have a back-up we can go to in the event that our first choice printer has to be set aside. In the event of defective product, we will send a replacement at no cost to you.

SHIPPING: Packages get lost. We'll work with you to send replacements. Our shipper may take longer than expected. We won't put the book on sale until they've shipped out all backer copies. Shipping costs can end up higher than expected. We'll absorb the overage.

FINANCES: Thanks to the success of the Dresden Files RPG and Fate Core, Evil Hat is—for the game industry—a perhaps atypically solvent RPG company. We've already spent thousands on getting Designers & Dragons to this point, and our bank account continues to look plenty healthy. If an unexpected cost arises, we've got the cushion to take the hit.

If there's any risk or challenge YOU can think of that we haven't mentioned here, please write in and ask. We love to answer questions, and we do our best to provide an unparalleled customer service experience whenever possible. We intend to impress you.

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    DIGITAL MULTI-CLASSER

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    FOURTH LEVEL

    Receive FOUR physical books; choose which volumes you want from those funded by this project. Shipping by media mail anywhere in the USA is included. You'll also receive everything in the DIGITAL MULTI-CLASSER level.

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    MASTER OF RETAIL

    This reward tier is for verified RETAILERS ONLY! We will ask you to provide proof that you're a retailer if you back at this level.

    Get EIGHT physical books of your choice from those volumes funded by this project. Shipping by media mail anywhere in the USA is included.

    You'll get access to the DIGITAL MULTI-CLASSER package as well, which you can provide to customers who preorder the books through your store.

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    PRESTIGE CLASS

    You get everything in the FOURTH LEVEL, plus all your book selections will be signed by Shannon Appelcline.

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    FOURTH LEVEL HARDCOVER

    Receive FOUR printed-on-demand HARDCOVER books (one of each decade, or another combination, your choice). Shipping by media mail anywhere in the USA is included. You'll also receive everything in the DIGITAL MULTI-CLASSER level.

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    PRESTIGE CLASS HARDCOVER

    You get everything in the FOURTH LEVEL HARDCOVER, plus all your book selections will be signed by Shannon Appelcline.

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    Pledge $625 or more About $625

    PLATINUM DRAGON

    You get everything in the PRESTIGE CLASS. Suggest a RPG-related topic to Shannon Appelcline—a particular designer, game, setting, company, or magazine—and Shannon will research that topic's history and write an approximately 2000 word article on the topic, expanding or contracting the topic as necessary to fit the wordcount. (If he wants to go over, that's at his discretion!) We'll make this article available to all the backers of this project in attractive PDF and ebook formats. It will also be posted as a column on RPG.net, mentioning you as the Platinum Dragon who made it possible.

    Topic will be subject to approval—please contact us before the campaign ends if you'd like to clear a topic in advance!

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Funding period

- (36 days)