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Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Oct 19 2017
Frank MentzerBy Frank Mentzer
First created
Frank MentzerBy Frank Mentzer
First created
pledged of $250,000pledged of $250,000 goal
0seconds to go
Funding Canceled
Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on Oct 19 2017

My Quandary, and Turning Off the Lights

Posted by Frank Mentzer (Creator)

To find a new game we have to find an ad or hear folks talk. The talk is usually about the big sellers, the usual fare. We have to prowl to find new ideas, and carefully follow posts. The great game magazines of the past have vanished. 

I support local game stores and the network that makes them possible. I concede that lower prices (barely, with shipping) are available online. But I can’t try the game online, and sometimes I can at the local store. (Not at the Big Store, of course, forget them.) If the price is just a little higher, please support your neighbor. 

I love variety. You’ll find me playing and trying all sorts of games at most of the conventions I attend. I try to support and talk about the great variety that’s been around for 17 years (broad perspective, sorry) due to the OGL Open Game License of 2000, which produced Osric and Pathfinder and then ideas from a thousand other talents with a mutual love for tabletop gaming. 

Over time I’ve come to support variety and options, for all of us, over specific game systems. My former support for narrow factions, be they new or old school, has ebbed. Thus, some hostility from related sites has also arisen… action/reaction imho. (They have what they want, and are hostile to change. I do suggest that we respect their choices, leave them be, and move on.) 

Empyrea is a project to publish my campaign world for the category of Fantasy Role Playing (not just one faction). It must be realistically designed so that it can exist in the current environment. I assembled a team to handle the many parts of the project. Then we tried a crowdfunding platform, but that didn’t work. (I’ll address one recurrent objection in a bit). 

It’s been a learning process, and we’ve decided to refocus on the unique and complex setting and restructure the funding. The work continues; just ask the team members. And I’m a hard-core hobby gamer and I’m going to get a Darlene map of my campaign one way or another. ;>

Here’s a promise. All of my team must be properly compensated, and everybody I work with should benefit in other ways (pages & links). Next: If I can add games and profits to the existing hobby shops, local game conventions, small game manufacturers, and the rest of the real world of our tabletop gaming community, that will be my #1 choice every time. I will not circumvent them to chase greater profits. Empowerment and team-building is the name of my game, not cut-throat old-school business.

Thus, I will not use crowdfunding to circumvent the hobby for my personal benefit.

Crowdfunding may still be an option in early creation stages, to muster those of like pioneering spirit. That’s why crowdfunding was first created. Naysayers have shouted down this attempt, but over 650 like-minded souls did step up. Thus, it’s doable here on a small scale, but not as a large project. And now we finally come to my ‘controversial’ stance on what crowdfunding become to some. You’ve been burned. Amateurs and money-hunters have taken your money and never delivered. Worse yet, some big names in the history of our hobby stumbled on the platform (crowdfunding itself). So you want more security, more safety. The sites won’t deliver that of course, they want profits, not liabilities. So you tighten up, only back sure things, with finished covers, mostly or fully written, preferably in full layout, and not less – even when the author has written dozens of published works. 

In saying “I only back finished products” some are telling creators to sell out… to create corporations with investors, or go borrow large sums personally, and pre-fund everything before it goes public. The product doesn’t need your ideas or participation (just your money), will sell online via Kickstarter or otherwise, and those on top can keep all the profit for themselves and just use the community for advertising. But: I will not use crowdfunding to circumvent the hobby for my personal benefit. 

I don’t expect you to change, I just fundamentally disagree. You get to make your own choices. So put it behind us, and let’s get back to gaming. :) 

At Loxley our work continues, and the website will see changes soon. We’ll be around, one way or another, building a world for others to use.

And thus, this attempt must now be concluded. This Kickstarter project is over.
Keep on gaming, check in at our website, and stay in touch. 

Sadly going back to work...

 Frank Mentzer   


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    1. Xaelvaen on

      I was in for $100 myself; sister continent to Greyhawk? Yes please. I guess we will have to wait to see what new form it takes.

    2. Missing avatar

      Craig Girten

      I agree with Francesco. While I was willing to put out $75 for the print copy, that was based entirely on my opinion of its pedigree. I pledged because I helping someone be happy that has previously made me happy. If it weren't for Frank & Co., I would have passed. That being said, it had nothing to do with the amount of work done vs. yet to be done. It's not like a campaign setting is a $300 flying coffee maker that also cleans your toilet, writing and layout is not the same kind of obstacle as prototyping the next Tickle-Me-Elmo when you don't even know what solder flux is.

      Good luck, Frank, and I'm excited to see your next attempt with this!

    3. Missing avatar

      Francesco Defferrari on

      More than 60,000 was not a bad start, but the goal was indeed unrealistic. Kickstarters work better if they are modular with many tiers and many stretch goals. The public is interested, it just had to start smaller, with the very minimum to publish a campaign setting. 75$ for the first print tier was also too much, even if I was willing to pay it, and 50$ was also too much for the first pdf tier. Still it could have worked with a more reasonable goal. The last Numenera, which is now a popular rpg, has a goal of only 80,000. The idea of Kickstarter is you fund the bare minimum to exist, and build from that. Still I hope to see this project made somehow and I am still willing to fund/buy anything Frank Mentzer will write. Never had any doubt on him!

    4. Bryan Lee Davidson on

      Well, this is a bummer for all of us over seas fans. We don't have a local game store in Brasov, Romania. It close about a year ago. Kick starting has been great for us. Oh well. Thank you for all you have given us. You redbox got many of us going.

    5. Missing avatar

      Steve Jensen on

      Your psychology is fascinating, at your age you still struggle between Adam Smith, Machiavelli with a little 60's hippie mixed in. You want to mix political implications with gaming design and production? You want all your motives to be altruistic, but yet you are human. Fantasy gaming isn't about creating a utopia in's fantasy. There we can be whatever we want to be. Crowd funding is bad now, but didn't you use crowd funding? Don't buy a half baked kickstarter because they will rip us off, but isn't that exactly what you were going to do? Frank, I love ya, but it's time to quit while you are ahead. It's time to retire from game design. Now is the time like you say to attend the conventions, sign the autographs, throw cheetos at game companions......preserve your legacy. Dissolve Loxley. Build your private world empyrea, invite others to play.... enjoy your retirement. If I see you there, I'll come over and say hello. You sure stirred things up, gave us one hell of a ride, thanks Frank!

    6. Missing avatar

      Paul L. Ming on

      Well...that's a kick to the nutsack. :( I backed because of one major thing; the countless hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades that you and that little red-box game you made back in the early 80's. Dragons & Digging? Dingos & Dachehounds? Dragons & Dunge...oh, right, Dungeons & Dragons: Basic Set 1. ;)

      I don't back a lot of kickstarters...mostly because I'm quite happy still playing BECMI and the myriad of other RPG's I have collected over the last 38'ish years of RPG'ing. I backed this one because, well, because I wouldn't be here without BECMI. I'd be doing something boring, I would have gotten into more trouble in my youth, and I would DEFINITELY be a lot more ignorant of the world as a whole (I mean, when you're 13 years old and using words like "nomenclature", "myriad", "verisimilitude", etc, you know you're doing something right!). For $1000 (yes, I backed for $1k), it was the least I could do to show my appreciation for everything that you, Gary, Dave, Aaron and the rest of the Old Skool Crew did for me.


    7. Vitasoy

      I started playing with the Red Box, and it broke my heart to know this project was over. It would be our loss if you don’t try it again.

      You see, there was 600 people back Empyea even there was nothing really solid. There are different kinds of people out there, you can’t expect all of them knowing what you were trying to do. So please don’t blame on something like “burn out”. (I can see there are lots of successfully funded projects out there).

      Understand this, most of them didn’t start playing with red box, and they even don’t know who Gygax was. So don’t expect them to support some guy like “Mentzer” or “Darlene” with 50 bucks, without any clue of what Empyea is.

      My suggestion, try to build up your reputation from something small (and cheap maybe). Break down your project. Study how the kickstarter works (or ask someone who know how it works).

      Rome wasn’t built in a day.


    8. Frank Mentzer Creator on

      We still have hope. Thanks again for your last comments. A new future awaits!
      cya at the game tables...

    9. Missing avatar

      Roger that

      I take issue with some of the comments and tone of today''s update by Frank. I did not get the feeling anyone expected a nearly completed project to back this KS. What I heard people asking for was a clear explanation of the vision for the project with perhaps a small sample of what to expect. Instead we got something along the lines of...Frank has some notes scattered around his house about his campaign.. and some famous contributors will pick what to add such as a ship, inn, etc... I did not seem the essence or organization of the project was ever really explained by anyone in the comments or on the KS page. Perhaps it was just a failure of communication only Frank really knows but it always seemed information was evasive. The goals was never realistic and a reboot was needed. I have never seen an RPG start with a goal of 250K. That being said I would like to see a reboot with some concrete information about the setting.. Not a completed project ready for printing. But a good explanation of the setting.

    10. Missing avatar

      Petra Jackl aka Dark Phoenix Events on

      It's going to be amazing and I look forward to it however you want to wrap it :) You have my support!!

    11. Claude on

      Don’t be a droppings now, Mr. Mensers! Much loves!

    12. Lisa Kellogg

      Look I had serious doubts when I seen $250,000 as the goal their are not many designers in the tabletop Rpg business that can get that number Monte cook and John wick are about it. And these men have proven records and they deliver on time. Most campaigns don't break $50,000 and of the few that do it is very rare to break $100,000. Kobold Press and Frog god games do it sometimes and I say again sometimes. often they only get a fraction of that. You have got something good here you broke $50,000 on the first day, from diehard gamers and you probably could have equalled that at the end when to let me see what I'm gonna get crowd hops on board and with a solid build-up this project could get $150,000. That is a BIG number if your name isn't Monte Cook or John Wick. You need to start small start with a basic book and 2 or three systems and get the rest with Stretch Goals. Unfortunately Kickstarter has become a pre-order service. Have I been burned, yes a few times but it is less than 5% of the time most campaigns do come through if a bit late at times. Ok A LOT late at times. But we are a patient lot we kickstarter backers, just be honest with us and report in from time to time and we will be their rooting you on and waiting patiently for our books. Please don't scrap the project simply because you didn't get a quarter of a million in 2 weeks 624 people were willing to give you a lot of their hard earned money on you name alone. We want to see your book on our shelves we will be back if you will. sounds like you have Mike Myler helping you listen to him he knows how to run a kickstarter, and he is a brilliant designer of campaign settings. Good Luck and hope to see you back soon.

    13. Scott Taylor on

      Certainly sad to see. I've developed 33 successful fantasy Kickstarters, and I know the heartbreak of this platform, but also the joy when it does work. There is no 'magic bullet', and no true arrow that points to a direct blame, but I respect any developers opinion, thus I 'get' where you are coming from. Good luck with future endeavors, whatever they may be.

    14. Missing avatar

      Matteo Crovetto on

      This sounds pretty harsh...

      Still, I'm very sorry for the setback. I'll bore you with something personal, please feel free to skip.

      I know very little about old school rpgs; I had never seen a map of Darlene's before visiting Empyrea's website, since I approached roleplaying after the 3rd edition of D&D had been released (and neither me or my friends were nerdy enough to look for older D&D editions... not to mention the price). What I mean is: I have no bound to Greyhawk nor old school gaming.
      So why did I back this project at all? Thing is, I can't even imagine what it could possibly mean to work on a setting for 40 years. Having played and lived in a place, as fictional as it might be, for such a long time is something special. That's not just another setting, designed specifically to be sold: this is the real thing, a land filled with memories and friendship. Perhaps I'm too romantic or just silly, but I really felt like sharing someone's memories and not only the work of a group of professionals (of course both things matter).

      You're so passionate about this, Frank, I do hope you'll find a satisfactory way to complete this great project of yours.

    15. Missing avatar

      Scott Jones

      Shame things aren't happening with this KS. Best of luck on the next one or with whichever format you end up going with. I'll keep my eyes open!

    16. Randy Andrews

      What a huge disappointment. I was a backer on day 1. I thought Franks name on it meant it was going to be amazing. I guess I was wrong. :(

    17. Frank Mentzer Creator on

      John Rudd, I heard you. But at the moment I have nobody to drive this Kickstarter, and until that is fixed, nothing here really changes. So we have to regroup. While this one is going to close, we'll strongly consider your advice and that of Kickstarter reps, who advise doing a relaunch after New Year's. -- F

    18. DM Bluddworth on

      Extremely disappointed but I remain hopeful that your campaign will find its way into our hands. With over 600 backers, it is clear there is a need for a "new" campaign setting. For people like me, your project is the only one that has that nostalgia tied to it.

      My suggestion, although I have no idea if it would reduce the cost, would be o make your campaign strictly D&D compatible.

      Also, the new funding level that you had previewed was in my opinion, very attainable. I hope you reconsider.

      All that being said, I will continue to follow the Empyrea website and look forward to any glimpses into the project as you continue to work on it.

      Best of luck,


    19. Xaelvaen on

      I am very sad to hear this news, but you have to do what's in your heart for a labor of love.

    20. Missing avatar

      John "johnkzin" Rudd

      Sadly, unless this project runs its natural course, with full support from the creators (ie. "not in zombie mode"), I wont back a follow up project. Nor will I back a different strategy. If you can't finish what you started, I wont have confidence that you'll do the same elsewhere.

      I started in at the $100 level, and was considering going up a tier (except I don't care about the "my character is a leader" benefit), and was definitely going to hit any add-ons that showed up. But, the reasons given for the ending of the project are either entirely resolveable, or don't add-up. I don't have confidence that the team will deliver if they're going to quit after less than a week.

      If you support this project to the bitter end, I will keep up with (most) of the add-ons, and even do some social media spreading of the word (and I almost _never_ do that).

      If you support this project to its bitter end, it fails to fund, and then you try a second kickstarter later with what you've learned, I will support that.

      I will pretty much walk away from any other strategy.

    21. Frank Mentzer Creator on

      Thanks for your fast input; it helps. :) The finished-product rant I could have omitted, yeah, but for some it's a valid reason for not backing. The key issue, tho, is ill-conceived 250k goal. We just don't realistically think it can happen. And to redesign the kickstarter properly takes time and work. It's an option we'll consider. But this specific project has to be shut down first. -- Frank

    22. Missing avatar

      François Uldry

      I respectfully disagree with your proclamation that everyone here has been burned. I saw something interesting in your project, thus backed it, without any expectations apart from the fact that I liked what you shown me.
      I hope to see Empyria out someday in any form and I hope I won't miss its release.
      This update deserves a "I don't like this update" button :)
      If you launch a new project with or without success, I'll back it up again and hope that it delivers as I do for all kickstart projects I join. I asked for a game system that you did not propose initially, but it did not prevent me to choose to back you.

    23. Missing avatar

      John "johnkzin" Rudd

      Looking back 2 updates, and seeing the 4 items on the bullet list, none of them require cancelling and looking elsewhere. You can add new revised pledge levels, that have the living compaign at new levels and show new delivery dates... and then get everyone to move over to the new pledge tiers.

      For adding PDF benefits? easy: just say "you all get this extra stuff now".

      You can't lower the total required for success, but ... you can add the benefits delivered by that total. Move some of your stretch goal ideas into the core funding. And, like I said: you're 6 days in, and 25% funded. That's actually pretty reasonable progress.

      1) do your re-vising of your costs (first bullet item), and figure out how much extra funding room that gets you.
      2) use that extra funding room to add benefits to the core funding of the project.
      3) post revised pledge tiers (you can't edit old ones, but you can close them and get people to move to the revised ones), with the right rewards and delivery dates.
      4) ride it out. If it doesn't succeed, it doesn't succeed. You've lost nothing, but gained some publicity. Then do your reboot a month later, and post an update with the URL here.

    24. Ed Silver

      Frank, I strongly urge you to reconsider. This Kickstarter was badly planned from the start and looked, frankly, like it was developed without a solid knowledge of how Kickstarters take off and succeed. Monty Cook has written the book on how to work KS to develop big, ambitious projects like yours. Luke Crane, who works for KS, is also an experienced RPG developer. Please reach out to these guys for advice on how to set pledge levels, structure stretch goals, calibrate overall campaign goals, etc.

      There is tremendous interest in seeing you publish Empyrea in the way you've mapped out here. Those of us who know your work and whose early gaming experiences were shaped by your writing are thrilled to see you swinging for the bleachers like this. Please, I implore you, don't let this toe in the crowdfunding water, or the snarking of lesser talents scare you off.

      Had this Kickstarter been formulated better, it would be thriving right now and you'd be harnessing the excitement of your fans to develop the campaign. Please get some good advice from experienced crowdfunders and relaunch this campaign. Soon.

    25. Missing avatar

      John "johnkzin" Rudd

      I don't see KSers as circumventing local hobby. For one, many projects have "retailer" tiers that let them get 5 or 6 copies at a steep discount, so they can be among the first to have it on the shelves.

      For many other projects, it's things that might never make it to a hobby store because it has a niche appeal (old school gamers, etc.) -- if less than .1% of all of the hobby backs your project, then it's not likely to make it to most stores, so not having it at the stores isn't hurting them. Yet, it still gets the project to the .1% who want it.

      As for being burned ... I've had 2 or 3 projects completely go south. Out of several hundred. The whole point of a kickstarter is the producer mitigating risk by getting outside funding instead of selling capital or risking their capital in other ways. So the backer takes on the risk. That's a completely known thing about crowdfunding -- any backer who says it's a surprise, or didn't realize it, or has sour grapes about it: they need to pull up their big boy/girl pants and read the fine print. You back because you're wiling to take on the risk, and in return you get early results and/or special perks and/or discount off of retail. That's the truth of it, whether those backers want to acknowledge it or not. (and those who don't aren't smart enough to be in the risk business in the first place).

      This whole post just seems ... ill conceived. But I can't make you continue the project. But what it sounds like to me isn't "I'm saving you and the hobby from the evils of crowdfunding", it actually comes across much more like you never intended to actually complete the project in the first place (6 days in, really?), or you didn't do your due diligence in knowing what you were getting into.

      Don't blame crowdfunding, or risk/burn, or danger to hobby/stores, or lack of progress, or any of that. None of it adds up.

    26. Frank Mentzer Creator on

      Very sorry, yes, we're ending this funding attempt and shifting to another. :) -- Frank

    27. Missing avatar

      John "johnkzin" Rudd

      You've got 25 days to go, you're 25% funded, and you're quitting?