Dark Matter is a full science fiction conversion for 5th Edition that unlocks a universe of adventure for your table, without leaving your favorite fantasy staples behind. The core book is around 200 pages, but will grow with stretch goals! This means that even after you buy the book, it will gain more content as more people pledge!
Everything in Dark Matter, from character options to space combat, is easy to learn, generic enough to use with any sci-fi setting, and made to work with the 5th Edition. We take great pride in making sure that everything we write is fun and balanced for everyone who plays.
Dark Matter is for any player or GM who wants a little more sci-fi at their table. Though it's a full campaign setting, Dark Matter is designed with flexibility as a top priority: the rules and options in Dark Matter can seamlessly be applied to any 5E campaign from the definitely-not-Star-Wars settings the to all-inclusive fantasy games. You need Dark Matter if you want to throw a blaster, laser sword, or starship into your next game, even if it's only for one session.
We get it: this is our first Kickstarter and we're going to have to earn your support. To give you some peace of mind and get Dark Matter into your home campaign as fast as possible, feel free to read over and use anything from this completely free sample book! (Some things are subject to change, of course.)
Dark Matter is a 200+ page hardcover book with full color illustrations and gorgeous art direction. Its 7 chapters are chock full of sci-fi action, from beginning to end. Stretch goals will add even more content, so tell your friends! Chapters as follows:
The 'Verse: An introduction to the universe at large, providing the all-important top-down view on everything, detailing the major factions and races at play, and listing hazards GMs might throw at players.
Races: Six new playable character races, plus an extremely customizable human subrace, to inhabit the 'verse alongside the usual fantasy standard of elves, dwarves, gnomes, and so on. Your next character could be an Amoeboid, a shapeshifting ooze-person, a Vect, a living construct of magical technology, or an Avia-Ra, a bird-headed sun worshiper.
Character Options: A swathe of archetypes for every class in 5E core; plus a handful for Mage Hand Press classes, a deluge of new feats, new backgrounds, and three new skills. With these options, you can finally play the tech-savvy gnomish space marine or the dashing elven starship pilot you've always longed for.
Equipment: Blasters, laser swords, rocket hammers, magic items, artifacts, and more! This chapter contains everything from personal radios and tool kits to universe-shaping artifacts. You know what they say: hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side!
Ships: Innovative rules for space combat, options for assembling and customizing your own starship, and over 40 example ships to populate your space battles. Everything you need to explore the universe! Will you spend your hard-earned gold on upgrading the dark matter drive in your custom Freelancer, or does it need another battery of pulse cannons?
Monsters: A bestiary full of alien critters from the adorable thrwirrel to sinister wandering rift. These creatures, all of which come with full descriptions and statistics, should provide a sci-fi challenge all the way from 1st level to 20th.
Spells: A catalog of spells to influence technology, harness hardlight, and travel the universe. From cantrips like technomancy, which give some harmless tech-manipulation, to the devastating orbital hardlight cannon (which is a magic space cannon that is every ounce as cool as it sounds), there's spells for every caster of every level.
Mage Hand Press is a small team of exceptionally talented writers and illustrators that have been working for over two years to produce professional quality 5e content, with assistance from Patreon. Now, they're ready to tackle their biggest and most ambitious project yet: a print run of Dark Matter. Here's a quick introduction to the team, along with their dumb nicknames:
The Finger (Mike). Mike is the Editor and Mastermind behind Mage Hand Press. A perfectionist to no end, he is in charge of graphic design, wrangling the artists, writing 50% of everything, and overseeing the all-important number-crunching. If something goes wrong it's probably his fault. His most treasured possession: +1 cowboy boots.
The Palm (Jaron). Jaron is a writer for Mage Hand Press. He regularly gets in blowout fights over Mike's design choices and doesn't consider an argument successful unless he at least entertains the thought of leaving the site entirely. He reigns supreme over the MHP Discord, ruling his tiny domain with an iron fist. His favorite type of dog is the Husky.
The Thumb (Ben). Ben is one of the founding members of Mage Hand Press and the producer of our YouTube channel, Rocks Fall (Everyone Dies). When gaming, Ben nearly always plays glass cannons and support characters. His special skill: Superhuman Cocktailcrafting.
The Nails (Matt). Matt is a writer for Mage Hand Press. He designs lots of our spells and monsters, and most anything to do with the fey. Matt generally prefers to GM, but as a player he favors rogues and wizards. His favorite flavor is marzipan and his waifu rating is 8/10 .
The Knuckle (Jason). Jason is a writer for Mage Hand Press. He mostly hangs around the Discord and writes warlocks. He's pretty good at it, I guess. His nickname: 'The Ginger Dragon'
Kirbs (Martin). Martin Kirby is the art-producing mule that carries the Hand's loot around and acts as handy trap-activator in dungeons. A self-taught 2D generalist by trade, he dabbles primarily concept art and illustration. He enjoys playing rogues, paladins and other characters that the rest of the party never seem to get on with. He lives online on Artstation and @kirbishart on Twitter.
Carneiro (Lucas). Lucas is one of the bards who does art and stuff for the Hand. He's a jack of all trades who works primarily with character concepts and fantasy related illustrations. Although he has the Jack of all Trades class feature, he enjoys GMing much more than playing, also he likes to make little power gamers cry for their mommas. He's trying to get off the social media grid, but he can still be found on Instagram or on Artstation.
We're optimistic that Dark Matter will achieve its initial goal of $25,000 necessary for its print run and its remaining art, and we hope it far exceeds that goal. In anticipation, we're laying out the project's stretch goals:
Faction Feats + d100 Trinkets
$27,000: UNLOCKED! The first stretch goal is a two-for-one! We'll include two pages of feats that directly tie into Dark Matter's key factions, as a way for GMs to mechanically reward players that join these factions. Additionally, we'll add a full d100 table of trinkets (also two pages) to help flesh out your characters.
$30,000: UNLOCKED! We'll include an entire base class, complete with subclasses, in a new chapter. This class, the Gadgeteer, is highly customizable and uniquely belongs to the Dark Matter universe.
Dark Matter Character Sheet
$32,000: UNLOCKED! We'll include an eye-catching two page Dark Matter character sheet, complete with entries for new skills, at the end of the book. PDF copies of Dark Matter will include a printable PDF of the character sheet.
Concept Art Section
$35,000: UNLOCKED! We'll include four pages of beautiful, fascinating concept art as an appendix to the book. These illustrations showcase the development of the fascinating races and vehicles on display in Dark Matter and might provide inspiration for your campaign.
Story Chapter Introductions
$40,000: By far the most ambitious stretch goal on this list, we'll include two pages to introduce each chapter, with a full-page illustration and a full-page short story, following a party of adventurers as they tour the 'verse. Note: if we reach this stretch goal, our projected schedule for development will see one to two months of delay as our artists get cracking on those 8 full-page illustrations.
If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details on what we're doing and when (and I imagine you will be if you're pledged to this project), we'll break down every part of our master plan as best we can. Every part of our schedule makes room for mistakes, setbacks, and failures; if everything goes well, we could run ahead of schedule and under budget. However, if and when setbacks occur, we'll let everyone know what's going on and where that places us.
First and foremost, we optimistically expect to print between 500 and 1,000 copies of Dark Matter. We understand that a lot of consumers will be interested in digital copies over physical ones, but we'd also like to have additional copies above and beyond those required by the Kickstarter backers. We've been quoted at 500 copies costing $6,100 and 1,000 copies costing $11,200 to print. Assuming the higher cost and rounding a bit, we're looking at:
$11,500: printing costs
The next largest expense to keep track of is the cost to continue paying our artists to put the finishing touches on the book. We've already invested in thousands of dollars of art for this book from our two regular artists, but there's quite a bit more to be done. Additionally, we estimate that the Monsters chapter (yet to be completed) will require the most amount of art in the book because of the formatting challenges with inflexible statblocks. Assuming we invest in one piece of art for every three pages remaining in the book (approximately 68 unfinished pages remaining), each piece of art takes 10 hours of work, and each hour of work costs $20 USD, we can approximate $4,600 in cost to complete the art for the book while maintaining the very high standard of work we have so far.
$4,600: art costs
Importantly, there's a miscellaneous category for legal and business expenses. We're self-publishing after all. This includes hiring a lawyer to look over the OGL to ensure that we're using it correctly (better safe than sorry) and to pat us on the head and tell us we haven't shot ourselves in the foot. I'll estimate this (hopefully high) at $2,000 Other small things, like purchasing ISBN numbers ($500) will add to this cost. Again, high estimate: everything here should be less than $3,000 total.
$3,000: legal and business expenses
Last but not least, we should account for the percentage that Kickstarter and PayPal take from pledges; rounding up, this looks like 10%.
$1,910 = 10% of 19100: Kickstarter and processing fees
Last, but not least, even though I've been highballing all of these estimates, I should make room for mistakes, unexpected expenses, and other general slush. Generally, I don't like to have slush under 20% of total expenses:
$4,202 = 20% of 21010: safety net slush
This brings the total amount to comfortably Kickstart to:
$25,212: estimated total
Or $25,000, if we're rounding a bit. It's important to note that even if there are additional unforeseen financial shortcomings, Kickstarter is not our only source of income. Mage Hand Press has proudly been supported by Patreon, which has funded the development of Dark Matter so far. Some funding from Patreon can help to cover unexpected expenses, if needed.
Here's a tentative schedule of milestones we expect to hit. These include both production milestones (such as finishing the production or revision of chapters) as well as estimated shipment milestones.
July 17th: Kickstarter Kickoff!
August 1st: Dark Matter Chapter 1: The 'Verse Completed
August 26th: Kickstarter Ends (hopefully with resounding success)
September 1st: Dark Matter Chapter 6: Monsters Completed (art may lag behind)
September 15th: Dark Matter Beta 1 Completed and Delivered. The beta copy may not have complete art assets, but will have all of the content, including stretch goals that have been met
October/November: Slush Period and Playtesting. Why this gap? If we're falling behind on anything, or if additional art needs to be completed, hopefully this amount of time will allow us to take care of that. Additionally, this gives us some time for playtesting to happen, for us to respond to feedback, and make adjustments accordingly. We won't be sitting idle during this time: if we can get ahead of schedule during the Slush period and work on the Print copy, we will do so.
December 15th: Print Copy Completed. It will likely take us some time to make the necessary changes to the book for a print version. Besides just adjusting the format for the new book to account for edges being clipped off the pages, we'll also very likely have to modify colors across the book to be lighter/more visible.
January 15th: Print Run Begins. We're estimating that printing the book will take 3 months, since we plan to print our books locally (in the St. Louis area.) It's worth noting that this is also a very wide estimate -- most quotes we've been given are significantly faster than this time. However, if the need arises to work with a more distant printer, or we struggle to iron out the problems with the print copy, the actual print run may see delays.
April 1st: Shipping Begins
During the next few weeks, the biggest thing you can do to help this project succeed (besides pledging) is to help us spread the word. We've seen firsthand the power of word-of-mouth in the past, and social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr can kick that effect into overdrive. If everyone pledging introduces one or two people to this project, things will snowball and we'll be breaking records in no time!
So, we thought we'd do something fun and add a few more stretch goals that you can unlock for free, just by sharing Dark Matter with your friends. We'll be keeping a live tally of the amount of views, retweets, shares, and reblogs we get on Dark Matter content. Every goal we reach scores a point and every two points will unlock an new goal. Of course, we'll keep you all updated as we unlock these achievements.
2 points - Hoverboard Magic Item: UNLOCKED!
4 points - Earth-Shattering Kaboom Spell: UNLOCKED!
6 points - Coffee Cantrip
8 points - Double Laser Sword Magic Item
10 points - Grax's Guys for Cheap Stickers for all physical backers
12 points - Dark Matter Galaxy Poster for the 'Goodies' tier and above
So get out there and do the social media! For achievements!
Risks and challenges
Dark Matter is Mage Hand Press's first print run and Kickstarter, so the biggest challenge is negotiating with printers and finalizing the print copy. We expect some delays on this stage (as well as delays on completing art for the two remaining chapters of the book), and have accordingly scheduled two months on the schedule to account for these delays. Depending on the actual delays experienced, the book could run well ahead of schedule, or experience a few months of delay.
International shipping to outside the US will also likely see delays, regardless of precautions we take.
We expect that there is very little chance that, even with unexpected costs, we will be unable to produce the final book. Mage Hand Press is also funded by Patreon, and will put forward any additional funding necessary to complete the final product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)