A mysterious djinn called Ammerpand has recently arrived in your local city, claiming she will grant one wish to anyone who can pass her challenge. To add credence to her claims, a newly-famous mercenary has already passed the test and been immediately headhunted into a prestigious position in the King's guard, a worthy reward in itself. As for the wish, the local gossip circles have only been able to speculate.
What is your wish?
Thus begins Dream of the Djinn, a high-risk, high-stakes tabletop role-playing adventure. It's compatible with classic RPG systems including D&D and Pathfinder, and is intended to be easily adapted to suit many others.
Suitable for lower-level characters (as you might not want to be too attached to them), Dream of the Djinn focuses on deadly traps, cunning curses, and a healthy dose of exploration. During testing, the adventure has so far provided about 12-15 hours of gameplay, a high mortality rate, and a consistent thumbs up.
Wishes are not the easiest of things to come by, so be prepared for a challenge. Throughout the course of the adventure, characters may run into ancient gods, sinister illusions, powerful artifacts, and trips through time. Or, more likely, their deaths.
What we're making:
Game Book: The current draft comes in at just under 80 pages, but it looks like it will end up closer to 90 on the final version, allowing for a comprehensive introduction and artistic layout.
Game Map: This giant map fills an A0 poster and contains over 30 rooms to explore.
Example scenarios (spoiler alert):
Dream of the Djinn is very much a game that rewards creativity. There are almost always multiple solutions to puzzles, and even the deadliest traps can be leveraged to your advantage if you're clever enough to find a way.
I recommend skipping this section if you plan on playing rather than hosting the game. The following are all real interactions that came up in test groups, as an example of the sort of scenarios that are possible in the game (especially for characters who are somewhat morally compromised):
The blood sacrifice
Faced with a riddle demanding life (among other things), our fighter clones himself, then slaughters said clone in an attempt to solve the puzzle. It doesn't work, and the party ends up murdering a woman they'd only just brought back from the dead moments before.
The flying fish
Our intrepid adventurers pour a gravity reversal potion into a river to see if they can walk safely under the waves. Instead, the deadly fish living within drink the potion and float to the ceiling, where they suffocate out of reach. Trap evaded!
The unscrupulous food baron
Our thief discovers a cursed feast and decides he can make a quick buck by feeding it to an unsuspecting crowd. This end result of this is a campsite full of ravenous naked people who have sold the very clothes off their backs in exchange for more food.
The... cute babies?
Female characters, watch out. You too could suddenly become a proud mother in the middle of a dungeon, as happened to two of our unsuspecting characters. I hear dungeon babysitting options are getting better these days, what with the inter-dimensional monk and the not-for-profit wizard charity group being about.
Many, many more traps and scenarios like these exist within the pages of the game. I haven't even mentioned my favourite ones. What you do with them is up to you.
It's also possible to:
- Time travel (in fact, there are three different variants of this)
- Become a sentient zombie
- Find the secret catfish (there's only one, and it's well-hidden)
- Unleash an incredibly dangerous artifact on the world
- Find your way to the afterlife without dying
- Create a room of infinite demons
- Get your wish! It's what you came for, right?
The first two drafts are finished, and the third - the first version using the formal book layout - is well underway. The map is close to its final layout in terms of content, but the graphics will be significantly improved before launch. The story and gameplay are holding up well thus far.
Allocation of funds:
The estimated costs breakdown is mostly made up of print fees. All amounts are calculated in Australian dollars:
$2,000 - Approximate print costs for a run of 100 game books, working out to $20 a copy (as per quotes received).
$400 - Print costs for 50 game maps, working out to $20 a copy.
$700 - Allocated budget for overseas and interstate shipping for backers (as shipping contributions are counted towards our total goal)
$100 - Print costs to cover test materials and works in progress.
$350 - Covers the maximum fee Kickstarter can charge us at the base $3,550 mark.
To keep costs as low as possible, neither I nor the testers will be paid for any of our work on this project - our efforts are voluntary. Exceeding the original goal would be a plus, but I'm likely to first put excess funding towards hiring a specialist illustrator to produce some artwork for the game book. If we end up with a greater number of backers, that money will also be first put towards producing more copies of the adventure to ensure demand is met.
Pending a successful Kickstarter, we're looking at an estimated release date of July 2016.
(In case your images aren't loading, those stretch goals are $5,000 for a full-colour centre spread artwork, $7,500 for an accompanying original soundtrack to set the mood, and $10,000 for a game expansion.)
Risks and challenges
I'm wary of unexpected print costs. As a small independent designer making limited print runs, it's hard to find a good balance between cost and quality - generally the best prices go to large bulk orders in the thousands.
The good news is, Dream of the Djinn is simple in terms of physical materials, and I can produce the vast majority of the labour myself. This should make it significantly cheaper to produce than my previous games, and I've arranged the quotes to back it up. I believe my current estimate is achievable. Considering I'm keeping the costs as low as possible, I should also be able to make up the difference to the budget personally if worst comes to worst.
International shipping is another factor that's hard to plan for, as there's no predicting what proportion of backers will be based locally in Australia. For the adventure book, I've calculated an expected shipping fee of about $14.10 AUD per book via air mail. A $700 budget allows us to ship 47 books internationally - which is just under half of our base print run. The maps are more expensive to ship at about $20-$25 AUD each, but there are likely to be fewer of these, and if we end up with a higher proportion of international backers, we can switch the shipping to sea mail to reduce costs. Of course, exceeding the initial funding target will enable me to produce and ship more copies for an overseas audience. In the event the goal isn't exceeded but there are many international backers, I will be able to make up any unforeseen differences out of my personal savings. I will do my best to get this to you!
TIME AND RESPONSIBILITIES
I'm working on no other large projects at the moment, which means I'm able to fully devote myself to producing Dream of the Djinn.
DIDN'T SAVE MY WORK CORRECTLY?
It's OK. I have many backups in many locations.
Well, that would suck. Presumably my ghost would haunt someone (possibly my husband and partner in crime) until they took up the mantle of delivering your orders. Additionally, being dead will free me up from other commitments, like a job, meal breaks and sleep.
DEBILITATING PHYSICAL INJURY
I will develop the incredible superpower of interfacing with technology with my mind, enabling me to continue to operate design software and type emails. Wait, why don't I just take control of the stock market and outsource production, you ask? Too easy. All-powerful psychic cyborg beings still need a challenge, just like anyone else.
DEBILITATING MENTAL INJURY
You've got me on this one.
- (30 days)