ALAS VEGAS is an RPG miniseries about amnesia, sin, horror and gambling, by 'the godfather of indie-game design'.
Ocean's Eleven directed by David Lynch. Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas by way of Dante's Inferno. The Hangover meets The Prisoner. A new style of RPG by James Wallis, named by Robin D. Laws as 'the godfather of indie-game design', with art from this year's winner of the World Fantasy Award, John Coulthart.
♠ TWELVE stretch goals unlocked! ALL MAJOR ARCANA ART funded! THREE ADDITIONAL campaign settings, YET ALREADY by Gareth Hanrahan, WARLOCK KINGS by Allen Varney, and REMEMBERING COSMIC MAN by Laurent 'Bob Darko' Devernay and Jérôme Larré unlocked! NEW STORY GAME by Ken Hite unlocked! New chapters by Richard Dansky, John Tynes, Robin D. Laws, Matt Forbeck and Mike Selinker unlocked! New artwork by Dennis Detwiller unlocked! ALAS VEGAS - THE NOVEL unlocked! 'Li'l Vegas' by John Kovalic unlocked!
♠ New rewards added—the ALAS VEGAS NOVEL in paperback (£9) and signed hardback (£19). All backers will get it as an ebook!
♠ The FUGUE MECHANICS will be released under the OPEN GAMING LICENCE.
♠ Currently unlocking @£25,000: Full STORYNEXUS free-to-play online interactive version of Alas Vegas! It's reachable, people! We can do this!
♠ All backers can now download the Alas Vegas playtest rules from the link in Update 12! And everyone can download a set of free Alas Vegas wallpapers by Niki Hunter!
♠ All the TAROT DECK stuff has been split off into its own Kickstarter, launching in March!
♠ Highest pledge—and therefore the book dedication—is now £302. GAUNTLET TURNS INTO SHARK, IS IMMEDIATELY EATEN BY SLIGHTLY LARGER SHARK. GAME OVER?
♣ ABOUT ALAS VEGAS ♥
Alas Vegas is a weird-horror RPG set in a nightmarish incarnation of a famous casino city. The player-characters begin the game by digging themselves out of a shallow grave in the desert, at midnight. They are naked, and they have no memory of who they are or how they got where they are. On the horizon is a scar of neon. There will be answers there. And trouble.
♦ FORMAT ♣
Alas Vegas is a 'blast'—longer than a one-shot game but not a standard open-ended RPG. It contains a set of rules and a single adventure that plays out over four sessions, for a group of 4-6 people. It's a neat format, and the rules and adventure complement each other perfectly to form a self-contained gaming unit unlike anything you've played before.
The other advantage of a blast game is that it gives the designer the space to tell a complete story with an actual ending. Most RPGs are like soap-operas: characters come and go but the story never really finishes. But Alas Vegas is modelled on a four-episode HBO mini-series, with cliffhangers, character arcs and a conclusion that ties up all the loose ends. And big guest-stars. The biggest. Hey, it's Vegas.
♠ THE MONEY ♦
Originally we were asking Kickstarter for £3000 (about US$4750) to pay for art and layout. We're way beyond that now, so we're concentrating on making the Alas Vegas book as cool as possible, with extra settings and adventures for use with the Fugue mechanics, and amazing new stuff from various alumni and illuminati of the games-design world.
The first draft of the game is in playtest—if you pledge any amount to the campaign you'll be able to download a copy of the playtest rules straight away. You can find the download link in Update 12 above.
♦ WHAT'S IN THE BOOK? ♣
Originally Alas Vegas was planned as a digest-sized book around 120 pages, but the page-count and the contents-list is increasing every time another stretch-goal goes down. We estimate that at the current level of content the book will be double its original length—around 240 pages.
Right now here's what will be in Alas Vegas:
- Fugue mechanics;
- 'Alas Vegas' setting and four-session adventure;
- 'Yet Already' setting and multi-session adventure by Gareth Hanrahan;
- 'Warlock Kings' setting and multi-session adventure by Allen Varney;
- 'Remembering Cosmic Man' setting and multi-session adventure by Laurent 'Bob Darko' Devernay and Jérôme Larré;
- The story-game 'Killing Bugsy Siegel' by Kenneth Hite;
- The 'Guide to Drinking Heavily in Vegas' chapter by John Tynes;
- 'Arcane Strategies': using tarot cards to create RPG ideas by Robin D. Laws;
- The 'Gambling with Magic' chapter by Matt Forbeck;
- The 'Bookmaker's Friend' chapter by Mike Selinker;
- The 'In Over Your Heads' chapter by Rich Dansky;
- 22 full-page tarot illustrations by John Coulthart;
- Section frontispieces by Dennis Detwiller;
- Designer's notes by James Wallis
- Anyone who pledges at least £20 will also receive a PDF copy of indie RPG Hell 4 Leather completely free.
- Everyone who pledges at least £6 will receive Alas Vegas in three digital formats: PDF, Kindle and epub.
- Everyone who pledges to the project will get the Alas Vegas novel as an ebook.
- All PDF copies of the game will come with a 4-user licence.
- The Fugue mechanics will be released under the Open Gaming Licence.
♥ SETTING AND STORY ♥
Alas Vegas is a search for answers, redemption and a way home in a city that looks a lot like Las Vegas but where things are... different. No roads out of town. No airport. No phones. No money except casino chips. No law enforcement, or at least no cops. Corpses disappear. Time is nebulous. The desert goes on forever. And something is following you—something from your past, the past you can't remember. Something dark and nasty.
There are cliffhangers and revelations, and encounters with celebrities and terrifying people. A good old-fashioned casino heist. Violent death. Recovered memories that should have stayed dark. Double-crosses. Gambling. And just possibly a way out.
We could say more, but we're keeping our cards close to our chest.
♠ THE MECHANICS ♠
Alas Vegas is powered by the Fugue system, a brand new rules-light mix of RPG mechanics created to build a game-narrative around a group of player-characters with amnesia. If you can't remember who you are then you can't remember what you can do, so Fugue uses a neat system of flashbacks: you recall part of your previous life, showing you using the ability you want to add to your character sheet.
But those flashbacks coalesce into a story, and some of the fragments you remember involve other player-characters, and some of the stuff you're remembering isn't nice at all. This process is entirely player-driven, it's not pre-scripted at all, and it works fantastically well.
The core mechanic for contested actions is something else. It's a cut-down fast-running version of the casino game Blackjack, played with Tarot cards. Winners win, losers lose, but as the action plays out the players and GM use the images on each new card to build the narrative of what's happening.
Plus every character has a Signifier, a Tarot card with special resonance for them. If it comes up in play, then the situation gets intense fast.
You don't need to know anything about Tarot to play the game. All you need is a cheap Tarot deck.
There's a lot more to it than that, but those are the main points. Hey, if you're curious and want to see more then if you pledge anything at all then you'll get a sneak-peek at the playtest rules document. And if this goes the usual way then some #@$! will already have put it on Bittorrent.
♠ THE DESIGNER ♥
Alas Vegas is the first new RPG in fifteen years from James Wallis, the man Robin D. Laws calls 'the godfather of indie-game design'. He's best known for the acclaimed card-game Once Upon a Time and the story-RPG The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and also for founding Hogshead Publishing, the company that published Warhammer FRP, SLA Industries, Nobilis and a slew of the first 'New Style' story-games including Puppetland, Pantheon, Violence and De Profundis.
He's also designed games for TV companies, chocolate makers, the UK Home Office, pharmaceutical giants, fantasy novelists, and ten-year-olds who asked politely. These days he runs the games consultancy Spaaace and the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.
♣ THE ARTISTS ♣
The artist on Alas Vegas is the legendary John Coulthart, who won the Artist of the Year award at the World Fantasy Awards in 2012. John has created cards for Magic: the Gathering but he's best known for his nightmarish Cthulhu illustrations, his collaborations with Alan Moore and his covers for Cradle of Filth albums. We are completely over-excited to be working with him.
John will be creating 22 full-page illustrations for the game. Fitting in with Alas Vegas's themes of luck, gambling and the supernatural, he will be creating the entire major arcana from a Las Vegas tarot deck. (There's never been one before. Well, it's about time.)
The book cover is by Niki Hunter, a veteran video-game artist with a list of credits as long as James's arm, and James has long arms. The illustration at the top of this page is a rough, not the finished cover art.
♦ THE REWARDS ♦
- Everyone who pledges any amount at all will receive the Alas Vegas Rules Pre-Release PDF. This is the playtest rules document (no setting or adventure material, minimal layout) and can be downloaded from a link you'll find in Update 12, above.
- Everyone who pledges at least £12 will also receive the full Alas Vegas PDF on publication, and gets their name in the book, as a ‘Tourist’
- Everyone who pledges at least £20 will also receive a free PDF copy of the acclaimed indie-RPG Hell 4 Leather by Joe Prince.
- Everyone who pledges at least £25 will also receive the Alas Vegas art portfolio PDF and gets their name in the book in 12-point type, as a ‘Card Sharp’
- Everyone who pledges at least £50 gets their name in the book in 18-point type, as a ‘High Roller’
- Everyone who pledges at least £100 gets their name in the book in 24-point type, as a 'Whale'
- If you are the highest single pledger I will dedicate the game to you. If it’s a tie then I will dedicate it to Sammy Davis, Jr instead. Because we're all about the Rat Pack. The current highest pledge is £213.
The rewards are on the right-hand side of the page. Something for everyone, we hope. If you have any suggestions for something else you'd like to pledge for then let us know: if we add it and someone pledges at that level, we'll give you a freebie at the same level!
Exchange rate: £1 is about US$1.50 or €1.20.
£50: AMONG THE DAMNED. The torture chambers of the damned in the fortress of the Warlock Kings in the Darkrealm has room for many inhabitants. For £50 you can be numbered among them! Specify your name, sin and method of torture, and you'll appear as an NPC in the WARLOCK KINGS section of the book.
£80: LOST IN TIME. Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has four major NPCs in his twisted tale of fractured time-streams YET ALREADY, and you can be one of them. I don't know more than that because with newborn twins he needs all the sleep he can get and I'm not going to wake him to ask for more information. But hey! It's you, in a Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan game-world!
ALTERED REWARDS: If you pledge £40 for the 'Barfly' reward you can choose whether your name appears in the book as a 'Card Sharp' or a 'Barfly'.
The £500 reward 'Critical Hit' has been dropped to £100.
NEW ADD-ON: It's a well-known fact that British games designers are fuelled by packs of Haribo candy. By adding £2 to your pledge you can purchase a pack of Haribo for James Wallis, to propel his imagination to ever higher flights of sugar- and gelatin-fuelled inspiration.
If you want multiple rewards, then be warned that Kickstarter will only let you pledge funds towards one. However, there's a solution. Add the pledge amounts of the two items together (plus shipping if relevant), then pledge that amount through the site, and drop James a message via the link under his pic saying which items you're pledging for.
There are bonuses for every level of pledge, as follows:
♠ STRETCH GOALS ♠
All the stretch goals described below will be incorporated into the Alas Vegas book. If you've pledged to receive that, you'll get everything below that's unlocked. The only two exceptions are the novel and the Storynexus version: the novel will be a separate free ebook for all backers; and Storynexus is an online game platform so we can't give that away. The rest of it—the artwork, the three new campaigns and the additional chapters of the book—are all free extras.
And here's what each of them mean:
UNLOCKED! £3500: DESIGNER’S NOTES. For £500 above the original funding goal we’ll include a set of detailed designer’s notes as an appendix to the game. They will explain the genesis of the project, the thoughts behind the structure and mechanics; the integration of mechanics and storytelling, how playtesting went and how the game evolved, and so on. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
UNLOCKED! £4000: MULTIPLE DIGITAL FORMATS. At this level we’ll release Alas Vegas in three digital formats: PDF, Kindle and DRM-free epub. All three files will be made available to anyone who’s receiving the full PDF of the game as part of their pledge. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
UNLOCKED! £6000: NEW CAMPAIGN: ‘YET ALREADY’. Noted Irish designer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (Traveller RPG, Paranoia RPG, Laundry RPG, Primeval RPG, Conan RPG 2e, &c. &c.) will write a completely new setting for the Fugue mechanics: ‘Yet Already’. Time-travel across multiple fractured timestreams, trying to piece your past—and reality—back together.
In his words: YET ALREADY IT SEEMS I HAVE TRAVELLED FAR
Imagine your life as a hand of cards. When you travel through time, you fan through those cards, through the hours of your life, and pick the one you want. Relive that moment over and over, or skip over that bad draw and jump into happier days. Get it wrong, though, and the cards go flying everywhere, landing out of sequence, face down. Your memories get shuffled randomly. You know you jumped through time, but it feels like you jumped head-first through a brick wall. Better pick yourself up and dust yourself off, because there are people coming to kill you. You don’t remember why they want you dead – but they’re not going to stop while you sort your past out. Time to run.
YOU SEE, MY SON, FROM HERE TIME TURNS INTO SPACE.
'Yet Already' will be included in the Alas Vegas book, so anyone who’s already pledged for the PDF, softcover or hardcover will get it automatically. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £8000: THE VEGAS TAROT: MAJOR ARCANA. John Coulthart will illustrate all 22 cards of the Major Arcana of the Vegas Tarot. Just pause for a moment and imagine how completely awesome that would be.All 22 cards will appear in the Alas Vegas book and the art-portfolio PDF, and will be available to anyone whose pledge includes art-prints. This is the second stage towards completing a Vegas Tarot Deck (78 cards)—the original £3000 goal was the first. Further funding for the Tarot project will be done via a separate Kickstarter. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £9000: THE COCKTAILS GUIDE. What's Vegas without cocktails? At this level, Alas Vegas will gain another appendix: a guide to classic cocktails from the golden era of Vegas and some brand-new mixes too, suitable for drinking while playing the game. Recipes and anecdotes will be provided courtesy of one of hobby-gaming's legends: JOHN TYNES, designer of Unknown Armies and Puppetland, and founder of Pagan Publishing. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £10,000: ARCANE STRATEGIES: TAROT AND RPGS. Robin D. Laws, who's been called the finest RPG designer of his generation, will write what he describes as 'a piece on using the Tarot as a sort of Oblique Strategies idea-prompt for RPGs in general'. I don't know about you but that presses all my buttons at once and makes smoke come out of my nose. You should know Robin as the man whose Kickstarter for his Hillfolk game asked for $3000 and raised $93000 a few months back—he's a legend and this will be awesome. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £12,000: NEW CAMPAIGN: WARLOCK KINGS. Allen Varney, a man whose record in gaming ranges from Paranoia and Toon to Epic Mickey, kicks it old-school:
In your eye socket the dark gem cracks. A pinch of glassy dust falls to the dungeon flagstones. Your mind clears. Looking around the torchlit cell with your remaining eye, you recognize a torture chamber of the Enemy. But you're not a prisoner. Around you stand the other Paladins of the High Council, also free. But why do they wear the spiked black armor of the Darkrealm's Warlock Kings? Why do you?
The bearded old man on the rack speaks calmly. He seems unhurt, unruffled. "At last. You may yet forestall this war, but time is short. I cannot remain in this tainted dimension. Please treat this host well, for he was brave to harbor me." An apparition of light rises from the man's eyes. It takes form high overhead, unhindered by the low stone ceiling. The image fills your mind, as exaltation fills your heart. With a smile, the seraphic figure fades.
Mortal fear grips you once more. You reach up, as if to call back the entity. Then you stare at your left hand: a misshapen, withered thing of many claws. A Hand of the Enemy! The Paladins, too, gaze in terror. Each left hand is disfigured like yours.
A clatter of keys as the cell door opens. In walks the Enemy's ranking general, the terror of the Free Peoples, murderer of legions: Angbolt. Though his black uniform is faultless, the tattoos on his face writhe visibly. Angbolt raises a hand, which bears the Enemy's claws. "My lords! Your armies stand ready. At your word, the invasion begins."
Vecna-riffic! Allen is one of my favourite writers in gaming and it's a joy to have him aboard this project. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £13,000: GAMBLING WITH MAGIC: VEGAS GMING ADVICE. Matt Forbeck, the mighty brain behind many best-selling RPGs and whose Leverage novel is riding high in the charts right now, knows Vegas: his novel Vegas Knights is set there. Who better to write a chapter about how to run a game in Vegas, and how you do gambling in a game that's already dice- or card-driven? STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £15,000: MIXED BAG 1.:
- Mike Selinker—whose barn-busting Kickstarter project The Maze of Games you should look at—will write a new chapter for Alas Vegas, about taking prop-bets and running a book on stuff happening within the game itself. which is just, you know, insanely clever.
- PLUS! Everyone who has backed Alas Vegas at the £20 level or above will get a free PDF copy of acclaimed tarot-based story-game Hell 4 Leather by Joe Prince—a £6.66 value!
- PLUS! Every copy of the Alas Vegas PDF will come with a four-user licence, so you'll have enough copies to give one to each of the GMs who'll be running the game in your group—legitimately. This offer only holds for the Kickstarter edition of the PDF. Regular retail versions won't have that.
♦ UNLOCKED! £18,000: ALAS VEGAS—THE NOVEL by James Wallis. The idea for Alas Vegas came from a novel I plotted but didn't write in the 1990s. At this level I will write the novel. Probably around 70,000 words. All Alas Vegas backers will receive it as a free PDF/ebook, but physical copies will be added to the list of possible rewards, and it will be published as a proper book one way or another. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £19,000: IN OVER YOUR HEADS by Rich Dansky. Alas Vegas is designed to end after four sessions but what if you want to keep playing? Rich Dansky delves in the mob-lore of Vegas to provide you with options, plots, power-struggles and personalities. Not only one of the world's foremost exponents of game-narrative in his senior role at Ubisoft, but an acclaimed horror writer (and former Wraith developer at White Wolf), Rich is absolutely the perfect person to be writing for Alas Vegas. I am incredibly happy that he's contributing to the game. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ UNLOCKED! £20,000: MIXED BAG 2
- A brand-new self-contained game from Ken 'Trail of Cthulhu' Hite, KILLING BUGSY SIEGEL. Ken is one of the premier designers of the age and this is an incredible thing he's pushed forward for this project. I am in awe of his design skills and his generosity.
- PLUS! Dennis Detwiller, legendary artist and designer for Pagan Publishing and Arc Dream, will provide double-page frontispieces for each of the campaign settings in the Alas Vegas book.
- PLUS! The Fugue mechanics go OPEN GAMING. We'll release the game-system under the Open Gaming Licence (OGL), so that you and anyone else will be free to use Fugue to create and publish your own games.
♦ UNLOCKED! £21,000: NEW CAMPAIGN: REMEMBERING COSMIC MAN by Laurent 'Bob Darko' Devernay and Jérôme Larré. From the home of the 'blast' format, two French designers have created a powerful post-Watchmen story of superheroes and mind-manipulation. In their words:
They might tell you that Cosmic Man is the most awesome hero around. Or that he's faster, stronger and smarter than anyone on Earth. They might even tell you that he's bloody invincible. And, until one hour ago, you would have agreed. But now, everything has changed. He lies there, in front of you. Just as dead as anyone else. And, even though you hate this, you must admit it doesn't look so awesome anymore. Just quite a vulgar, common corpse for such a legendary old friend.
Once Cosmic Man's partners and teammates, his media specialists made sure you were considered as mere sidekicks for the last decade. All four of you hated this. One went too far and killed him. Now, you have to recover all these memories suddenly gone, find out who's the traitor and build the next world to be. The forbidden Tarot will help you to do this. It will reveal to all of you what happened during the last 24 hours of Cosmic Man's life ... and much more about yourselves, your powers and your dirty little secrets.
Sometimes, ignorance is more than bliss. Sometimes it is the only truth and justice you can expect. STRETCH GOAL UNLOCKED!
♦ £25,000: STORYNEXUS: ALAS VEGAS. Storynexus is the acclaimed and award-winning platform for interactive storytelling online, home to Fallen London, the Night Circus and other brilliant games. It's a perfect fit for Alas Vegas, not only in style and tone, but also because it uses a card-based system for advancing the narrative—just like the way AV uses a tarot deck.
If the Kickstarter total hits £25000 we will create a full free-to-play Storynexus version of the world and narrative of Alas Vegas. Anyone who backed AV at the £12 level or higher will get beta-access to it, ahead of public launch. The RPG book takes priority, obviously, so work on this won't start until that's done.
The Guardian wrote about Storynexus at the end of last year: you can read it here. It's a very cool application. Plus the guys at Failbetter Games are old friends and old roleplayers. There's natural crossover there.
♦ TAROT ♣
Many of you have asked if we can create a proper Tarot deck using the John Coulthart art. The answer is yes, we can—but not as part of this Kickstarter.
Alas Vegas is fundamentally an RPG project, and we've discovered that shifting the focus away from the game means that the pledges go down to a trickle. So we're going to be all about the RPG and the book for the rest of the campaign. But after that we will be running a second Kickstarter, exclusively to fund the creation of a Vegas Tarot deck. There's more information about this in Update 6.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for your interest in Alas Vegas, and we hope you're intrigued by what you've read. If you have any questions about anything then please get in touch, either through Kickstarter or by emailing email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Alas Vegas is plotted, structured, designed and mostly written. It's in playtest right now. Unless something goes genuinely wrong this game will come out in June 2013. (To remind those of you who are getting on a bit and can't remember how far in the future we're living, 2013 is this year. Incredible, isn't it?)
James Wallis has been working in the RPG industry since the mid-80s and has run two successful games-publishing companies (Hogshead Publishing and Magnum Opus Press). He's written fourteen books. He knows the pitfalls of the writing and publishing businesses and how to route around them.
Alas Vegas will be published in mid-2013 by Pelgrane Press (after the Kickstarter copies have gone out to backers, never fear). Pelgrane is home to Trail of Cthulhu, Hillfolk, Esoterrorists, the Dying Earth RPG and other groundbreaking titles. However Pelgrane isn't financing the production of the game, it'll only print and distribute it.
Given that level of experience behind the project, the only real risk or challenge to getting Alas Vegas the penultimate step from manuscript to publisher is this Kickstarter.
Kickstarter UK doesn't use Amazon Payments to process transactions, it goes direct for the money-digits. It is more of a hassle than using the US system but it's just as secure, and if a UK project doesn't reach its goal then you won't get charged, same as on the main site.
It depends how much I know about you. Give me a name and a little background and—well, put it this way: last weekend someone paid €350 for a copy of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen in a charity auction, and I wrote her a five-page dedication including a 'You win this game' voucher. I'm not promising I'll do that for Alas Vegas, but it'll definitely be more than "To Joe, best wishes -James"
No, not at all. I wasn't aware of Last Call until I'd locked the main story and the core mechanics of Alas Vegas. Now I've read it, I can safely say there are no important overlaps between the two. You should read Last Call if you haven't, it's terrific.
You're right. That'll teach me to take my time over publishing my game designs. Alas Vegas is actually based on a novel I plotted but didn't write in 1997, and the shallow-grave idea started there. It's relevant to the overall story (unlike the shallow grave in New Vegas) or it wouldn't be there any more.
Alas Vegas will be published by Pelgrane Press and available to retailers through all good game distributors. We believe in supporting retailers, but healthy retailers need healthy distributors and we'd like shops to buy the game through them.