About this project
With your help we've unlocked five Top Tracks stretch goals and our final stretch goal—an entirely new way of playing Damn the Man inspired by the world and words of Douglas Adams!
Welcome to Revolution Records. The kind of place that’s been on the verge of closing since opening day.
Damn the Man, Save the Music! is a tabletop roleplaying game about making a last-ditch effort to save something you love. Play a ragtag group of underachievers, overachievers, street philosophers, and lovestruck artists united by one cause: to rescue your record store from the oppressive hand of The Man… and to keep the music playing.
It’s very likely that everything will go wrong, but at Revolution Records, that’s business as usual. Damn the Man is a single-session game inspired by movies like Empire Records and Clerks, and by a love for bygone '90s music. Once you’re set up, the game plays out in the time it takes to watch a movie.
We’re proud to share Damn the Man, Save the Music! as part of Kickstarter Gold—an event celebrating remixes and evolutions of past projects.
Damn the Man started as a re-imagining of Questlandia, the first game that we funded on Kickstarter in 2014. We wondered—if people like collapsing fantasy kingdoms, what about collapsing ‘90s record stores? We brought the game to conventions, and it was an immediate hit. What started as a small rules hack quickly expanded into a complete roleplaying game! We’re thrilled to re-imagine our first game into something entirely new, and we’re so happy Kickstarter has made that possible.
"To me, this is a game about passion for music, fighting to keep your principles even when doom seems certain, and being an awkward, blue-collar bohemian. It's such an earnestly joyous game, and I'm so glad I got to play it. Also: I worked retail in the '90s; this game captures that spirit in a surprisingly-accurate-to-my-memory way."
-Robert Bohl, Designer of Misspent Youth
"Damn the Man is an RPG that seeks to emulate 1990s movies like Empire Records. The game was a blast to play and we told a ridiculous(ly fun) story that involved saving the store by co-opting an off-brand David Hasselhoff (Terry Dietrich AKA The Lips). The genre emulation was perfect!"
-Randy Lubin, Game Designer, Diegetic Games
"Damn the Man, Save the Music! lets you relive those days spent hanging out at the used record store, but better than those days actually were. Hannah has created a tight framework for telling stories about lovable weirdos and their earnest ambitions, with a lot of support and care for players and facilitators built in—making it accessible whether you loved or lived through the 90s yourself."
-Sara Williamson, Designer of Group Date and 183 Days
In Damn the Man, Save the Music! you and your friends play characters trying to save your store—and maybe save each other in the process. You’ll get to act out scenes like…
- Confessing your love to your lifelong crush in the middle of trying to catch a shoplifter.
- Deciding whether to get your boss coffee, or go searching for your higher purpose.
- Scrambling to meet a washed up rock star's increasingly ridiculous demands.
- Building up the confidence to ask for a promotion while a literal fire blazes behind you.
One person in your group will take on the role of Facilitator. The Facilitator reads the rules before jumping into the game, keeps the pace moving from scene to scene, and plays the game’s extras—like the Boss, the Bigshot, and maybe a snooty barista or friendly drug dealer along the way.
Characters in Damn the Man are inspired by '90s movie archetypes, and then elaborated with complicated relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and the flaws that make them human.
Damn the Man is like your favorite '90s movie done better—where queer characters aren’t the butt of the joke, where white characters aren’t the only ones in the spotlight, and where two women can talk with each other about more than just guys.
Create your characters and troubles.
Damn the Man, Save the Music! plays out in three acts: Opening, The Big Event, and Closing. Every act begins with a musical montage and ends with an unavoidable escalating trouble that impacts you, your friends, and your store.
You start the game by picking a character archetype and creating your characters. Choose your name, age, the way you dress, your favorite music, and the big goal you need to accomplish before midnight!
You’ll also learn about a big disaster that hit the store just yesterday—like all the cash disappearing from the cash box. Whatever it is, it’ll cause tensions to run high, and will set the stage for even bigger disasters right around the corner.
Play out scenes with the spotlight on your character.
Every character gets one Schedule Scene in each act. During your Schedule Scene, you have to juggle responsibilities and choose whether you’d like to Double Down, Take a Moment, or Shoot for Your Goal!
Do you want to Double Down and find a way to deal with the Mothers Against Satanic Music protesters outside? Do you want to Take a Moment to heal your relationship with your best friend, who you’ve been avoiding since learning you’re both secretly gay? Or do you want to find a way to Shoot for Your Goal and fulfill your quest to find Scrappy Bojangles, the store’s lost cat?
Roll dice to prevent—or escalate—store troubles!
When it’s time to learn the outcome of your scene, you’ll get to rolling some dice! As the scene’s protagonist, you’ll roll one or two six-sided dice to determine whether you accomplish whatever task your boss demanded of you. If you don’t succeed, a new disaster will befall the store: the roof caves in, the cops find the boss’s secret stash, the Bigshot makes off with the store's prized collection of Dax Brigsby albums and disappears into the night—and the opposition gets more dice to roll against you the next time. Troubles like this can escalate to the point of no return. If this happens, the store will collapse… and succumb to the greedy, uncaring hands of The Man.
In the end, it’s all about making it right.
After every player has taken three turns, you’ll have learned the destiny of Revolution Records. But what about your own destiny? The things you did and didn’t do during the game will impact your epilogue to come. Were you able to accomplish your goal? Did you spare a moment for your friends, or did you sacrifice your relationships to finally get that promotion?
As the sun sets on Revolution Records, you’ll have one last chance to make it count.
I designed Damn the Man, Save the Music! with three goals in mind:
- I wanted to create a game that supported first-time roleplayers and first-time GMs, with lots of creative cues and helpful facilitation tools.
- I wanted to create a game that longtime roleplayers would also love, that didn’t sacrifice a satisfying story for the sake of simplicity.
- Finally, I wanted to create a game with a spirit of camaraderie, counterculture, and teenage rebellion—a game that felt energizing to play and left everyone smiling.
I’ve worked hard to make sure Damn the Man meets all of these goals. It’s the perfect low-prep convention game, a great game for introducing friends to roleplaying for the first time, and it’s designed with supportive mechanics that are there to help you if you’re not sure what to do.
I’ve playtested Damn the Man for two years now, and I’m excited to share it with you!
Evan Rowland, who’s offered immense design support for the game, ran a game of Damn the Man for the Gauntlet RPG community on Google Hangouts. Check out the gameplay video below!
One Shot Podcast
One Shot podcast recorded an Actual Play of Damn the Man. Thanks One Shot!
These wonderful podcasts were kind enough to make space for interviews about Damn the Man. Check 'em out!
- Misdirected Mark - Hannah talks with Chris and co. about designing for genre.
- Modifier Podcast - Break out your baggy jeans and tiny backpacks! Hannah talks with Meg about Questlandia's mechanics evolving for Damn the Man.
- Board with Life - We talk about pitching Damn the Man to a cigar-toting Mr. Moneybags and welcoming new players to RPGs.
What’s a game about an indie record store without its own song? We collaborated with musician Pat King to create the Damn the Man, Save the Music! theme song. Check out the full song in the video below! (Heads up for some nsfw lyrics!)
Kickstarter Video Images
The Damn the Man Kickstarter video uses many public domain and Creative Commons images. All credits for those images can be found here.
You’ll find all reward levels listed in the sidebar of the Kickstarter page, but here’s a detailed breakdown of every level, including images:
The Digital Killed the Radio Star ($10) level includes a PDF copy of Damn the Man, Save the Music! and any digital stretch goals unlocked during the campaign.
The Teenage Dirtbag ($25) level includes the softcover Damn the Man rulebook. The 100-page book measures 6x9”, will be printed in vibrant full-color on environmentally friendly materials, and contains all the rules you need to play the game.
If you’d rather not settle for just one book, the Truly Madly Deeply ($50) level gets you a softcover copy of Damn the Man along with another Make Big Things game: Questlandia, Noirlandia, or another copy of Damn the Man. To learn more about Questlandia, click here. To learn more about Noirlandia, click here.
I’m especially excited about the Spin Me Round ($65) level, which gets you Damn the Man in a limited edition game box designed by artist Sarah Robbins. This level includes everything you’d possibly need to play the game: the rulebook, playing cards featuring art from Damn the Man, dice in two different colors, a dice bag, index cards, pencils for every player, character sheets, game printouts, and quick reference rules!
Have you always dreamed of bringing your favorite fictional ‘90s band to life? With the Member of the Band ($125) level you’ll receive everything from the SPIN ME ROUND level, with some very special musical extras. First, you’ll get to contribute your own fictional ‘90s band name, including their hit song and genre, to our Top Tracks list. You’ll also get a limited edition print from artist Sarah Robbins—featuring a concert poster for the fictional Damn the Man punk band Damnster Fire. Finally, we’ll include a glossy, full-color, illustrated booklet with a list of all the hit songs, plus band bios, lyrics, and album art for every song unlocked as part of the Top Tracks stretch goals.
We've got one last backer level after that! At the Going Platinum ($500) level you’ll receive everything from the MEMBER OF THE BAND level, plus the opportunity to collaborate with us to have your own fictional ‘90s band featured as a headliner in the Top Tracks booklet. We’ll include an extended band bio, lyrics from your band’s top single, and custom album art for your band, illustrated by Damn the Man artist Evan Rowland. You'll get a framed, high-quality 10x10” print of your album art to decorate your wall. Thanks for being a rockstar!
We want to expand the Damn the Man, Save the Music! world with unique music and genres you can use in your game, and we’re joined by a team of fantastic designers to help bring the Top Track stretch goals to life.
These authors will create the Top Tracks of the game’s alternate-universe 1995. Each song will come with album art, a band bio, and lyric snippets. A perfect resource for when you need band names or songs on the fly!
The Secret Stretch Goal
We hit all of our Top Track stretch goals, so we get to announce our secret stretch goal—The Record Store at the End of the Universe.
Nestled among the dying stars of ancient galaxies, in the part of the universe your mom doesn’t want you to visit, lies the record store at the end of the universe.
Travel to the end of time in a last-ditch effort to save the last known record store from the galaxy’s president, Tromp Bobblenob. Play as the perpetually-confused Walter Poole, moody robot Prototype 12, or not-actually-human-but-seems-a-decent-enough-fellow Deckard Casette!
This hack of Damn the Man, inspired by The Hitchhiker's Guide series, supplies an experience that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the core game! All digital and above backers will have access to this stretch goal. Member of the Band ($125) backers will receive a physical version of this new game, with some special extras!
Social Stretch Goals
We've also added a few social stretch goals to Damn the Man! These stretch goals aren't linked to dollar amounts, but instead, to your enthusiasm for spreading the word!
Share a favorite '90s song or band on social media and tag us into a public post. If we hit 20 song shares, we'll unlock a brand new character archetype... The Wizard. You can learn more about The Wizard, and how to share songs to unlock this new character, in a backer update here.
Damn the Man wouldn’t be possible without the help of an amazing team of creators!
The cover art and interior illustrations were created by Make Big Things co-founder Evan Rowland. Evan’s previous art credits include illustrations for Make Big Things games Questlandia, Noirlandia, and 14 Days. He’s also done illustrations for Epidiah Ravachol’s Worlds Without Master, the upcoming Threadbare RPG, and design and layout work for Perseverant and Belly of the Beast.
The limited edition record box and Damn the Man concert poster are from talented Baltimore-based artist Sarah Robbins. We fell in love with Sarah’s patterns and prints the moment we saw them!
The Damn the Man anthem was created by Pat King, who was nice enough to let Hannah give a go at writing the lyrics. Brian Van Slyke, part of the Make Big Things trio and the designer of Rise Up, is doing project management and communications support. We’ll also be working with editor Joshua Yearsley to put the final polish on the Damn the Man rulebook and to bring the text to the next level.
Make Big Things
Damn the Man, Save the Music! is a Make Big Things game. Make Big Things is a three-person game cooperative composed of Brian Van Slyke, Hannah Shaffer, and Evan Rowland. We’re responsible for the roleplaying games Questlandia, Noirlandia, and 14 Days. We aspire to make games that feel accessible to new players and ask interesting questions about the world.
Hannah Shaffer - Lead Designer
Hannah Shaffer (@hanbandit) is the designer of Damn the Man, Save the Music! and the co-designer of Questlandia and 14 Days. Hannah currently resides in Massachusetts and her heart resides in California. She loves lychee tea and ‘90s point-and-click adventure games, and is learning how to play the ukulele.
Brian Van Slyke - Project Manager, Communications
Brian Van Slyke (@thebrinos) is a game maker, educator, and cooperator. He’s the designer of three games: Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, Loud & Proud, and Rise Up: The Game of People and Power. He founded the TESA Collective and has eaten his fair share of popcorn. He also launched and ran a punk rock record label for way too long.
Evan Rowland - Art and Layout
Evan Rowland (@adrawnnovel) is an avid player and creator of both tabletop and computer games. He’s the designer of Noirlandia, the co-designer of Questlandia and 14 Days, and is developing the upcoming video game Goblin Diplomat.
We’re also working with
Joshua Yearsley - Editor
Joshua Yearsley (@joshuayearsley) is a professional editor of games. His RPG editing credits include most of the Fate Worlds of Adventure line by Evil Hat Productions as well as many games by Sigil Stone Publishing, including Belly of the Beast and Perseverant. He also likes cats and orange-vanilla seltzer.
Sarah Robbins - Artist
Sarah Robbins (@SarahRDraws) is an illustrator, printmaker, and book artist living in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work focuses on feminist themes, visual journalism, and a love for folklore and the natural world. She co-runs PaperBase, a community letterpress and risograph printshop, often combining her talents with other artists to create collaborative work. Her illustrations have been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Baltimore Magazine, and Green Network Baltimore. (Instagram: @SarahRobbinsDraws)
Pat King - Musician
Pat King (@patkingface) is a musician, sound designer, video game maker, wooden board game constructor and enjoys being a dad. His studio, Woodpenny, assists in creative game design, development and audio projects. Pat co-founded the Pioneer Valley Game Developers and hopes more people will come hang out and chat about making games at their meet-ups!
Make Big Things is a worker-owned cooperative that creates and publishes games.
- Each person who works at Make Big Things owns one equal share of the business and is involved in its democratic governance.
- We split profits equally between all worker-owners in the good times, and we share the burdens equally in the hard times.
- We donate a percentage of profits back to social causes we believe in and support other worker-owned co-ops as much as we can.
- We work to support and amplify the voices of marginalized creators.
- Where possible, we work to print and source our materials in the United States and Canada, from businesses with sustainable practices that provide a living wage.
- We strive to align our own principles with our design principles, and have vowed to make games that reflect our social beliefs.
Our success is dependent on the word-of-mouth of our fans. If you want to help us get our games to wider audiences, we'd love it if you shared the project!
We believe games can be a powerful force for good in the world. Thanks for supporting that dream!
Risks and challenges
This will be our fourth Kickstarter campaign for Make Big Things! We love Kickstarting games, and we take the responsibility seriously. We’ve successfully completed and delivered on all three of our previous games, with consistent communication along the way.
In our experience, the things that tend to slow down projects are manufacturing defects, shipping hiccups, and timeline miscalculations. We’ve worked through all of these before, and we feel confident in our abilities. If we experience unexpected delays, we’ll let you know what’s going on!
If we meet our funding goal, you’ll be receiving a beautiful, complete game that we hope you’ll love just as much as we do. If we exceed our goal, we’ll be offering additional rewards as thanks for helping us take this project above and beyond. We’re so excited to share our game with you. Thanks for believing in us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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