Star Bastards is an old-school single-player gamebook played with a couple of regular six-sided dice, a pencil and some paper (and a deck of special item and co-pilot cards, if you have them to hand). Play as either the Space Exploration Pole - the greatest Polish space hero ever put to paper - as he flees from the law, or take control of the interstellar lawman trying to bring him to justice. Along the way travel through strange worlds, meet and/or arrest a cast of unpleasant and mildly treacherous aliens and batter your way to freedom or that juicy promotion using your rock-hard fists. It's an exciting adventure chock full of action, battles and even a few puzzles, illustrated throughout with original black and white line-art by yours truly.
Unlike most books, you decides what happens. Star Bastards is divided up into 400 entries. At the end of most of them you'll face some kind of challenge or decide where to turn to next. If you've ever played a Fighting Fantasy or Choose Your Own Adventure you'll know the deal. If you're from a place or time where these kinds of books weren't all that popular a gamebook is kind of like a cross between a single-player role playing game and a tabletop boardgame. You take control of a character and guide them through the story, using rules given in the book to determine the outcome of your choices.
I grew up with the Fighting Fantasy series of books and spent many hours beating the hell out of monsters, aliens and evil wizards as a child using a pen, an eraser and a couple of dice. I eventually grew up, but never grew out of that kind of thing: last year I ran LP's of The Sword of the Bastard Elf and Void Racers gamebooks on the Something Awful Forums. From there I promised to write an actual gamebook and so Star Bastards was born! The Two-Fisted Fantasy series is all about being viciously funny and grimly amusing in turns, and I don't think Star Bastards is going to disappoint if you're looking for a good time in space.
Let's get down to brass tacks. Star Bastards is a single-player sci-fi choose-your-own-adventure gamebook. It weighs in at 338 pages long and includes 32 full-page illustrations, a number of smaller interstitial graphics and a few pages of maps, charts and tables. It comes complete with rules for close, ranged and space combat as well as the methods for overcoming the various challenges that stand between you and your goal.
While it is similar in a lot of ways to the gamebooks of yore it has a few things which set it apart:
- Two complete adventures in one. The book contains two completely different playable adventures covering both sides of the story. There are eight possible endings (not counting the numerous sticky ends that you might come to) so lots of replayability.
- You're not adventuring alone! You start with a co-pilot who will assist you (most of the time), provide additional piloting and fighting skills and can sometimes change the course of the story due to some ability or a personality defect (or quirk if we're being nice).
- The game makes use of item cards detailing the capabilities of the stuff you pick up throughout the adventure. There's a table in the back of the book but the cards add a lot to the experience.
- A vicious sense of humour. Trust no one - just about every character you meet has their own thing going on and isn't all that interested in helping you with whatever you're up to.
- It's all original text and images - while a lot of kickstarters are re-releasing or adapting old gamebooks (no bad thing) maybe you're in the mood for something new?
In short it should scratch that old-school gaming itch while still giving you a few new things to do!
Choose your character, customise their skills and abilities, pick a co-pilot, select from a pile of starting items and get onto the spaceway! The mechanics in Two-Fisted Fantasy games revolve around preserving Energy - while you're likely going to be equal to most of the enemies and situations you encounter you've got to watch how much of your resources you commit to any particular task. Even coming out of a fight without taking a scratch can seriously deplete your reserves. Other mechanics include code words, hidden paragraphs that you reach using clues on item descriptions or your co-pilots' abilities and Collars - a stat which tracks how your police career is going if you play as the cop. Also many more! They're all detailed in the rules section of the book.
Here are a couple of pages from the book to give you some idea of the tone:
The first Kickstarter campaign for Star Bastards (regrettably not a success) was set up purely for digital distribution with the possibility of a print version on the distant horizon. However as soon as I realised that print was a distinct possibility I geared my design towards a book layout. The Digital Edition is therefore very similar to the printed version, but that doesn't mean it's been given short shrift. On the contrary I've worked hard to make sure the digital experience is excellent.
The digital version of Star Bastards consists of the main book, the digital card deck and a printable quick-reference document. Designed to be read in 2-up mode, the book can easily be switched to a single page view for reading on a tablet or phone. It has a full set of PDF bookmarks and a hyperlinked TOC. Most importantly the main text is fully hyperlinked. The illustrations are also bookmarked in case you just want to gaze at the pictures.
The digital card deck contains all 54 item and co-pilot cards in 300dpi resolution to make reading the text easy. The document is bookmarked to make navigation easy. While you can rely on the appendices at the the back of the book for item and crew details I find that the cards make the playing experience a lot better.
Finally I've included a quick-reference guide which has a recap of the combat rules and a handy easy-to-print adventure sheet. It also has some great illustrations not seen in the main book and a little history of the Two Fisted Fantasy brand.
Thanks to your support we hit a few stretch goals so the digital edition now comes with an e-book version of the adventure for those of you who like to adventure on the go. It's perfect for small e-ink screens (although if you've got more screen space I think the digital version is better). It's been subtly modified to make it a bit more playable in that format - puzzles relying on images have been reworked and the images have been moved out of the line of the text and to the back of the document (still linked from the relevant paragraphs though). You'll get these in DRM-free MOBI and EPUB formats at the new E-DITION tier or higher.
The printed version, available at the higher tiers, is very similar to the digital version. In fact, you also get a digital copy of the book with any physical version. Where it differs is that you get to hold the gamebook right in your hands, crease that cover and go hunting around the paragraphs just like you're supposed to!
The printed version is made up of a gamebook, a deck of cards and some dice. Stretch goals in this area include a display box, clutch pencils, pre-printed adventure pads, stickers and other gubbins. You can get the gamebook on its own and use the digital cards as an accompaniment or just use the table in the back if you'd prefer.
The book is a printed on thick 100gsm paper with a tough yet shiny 300gsm card cover. Printed with care in the UK it's a thing of beauty and material evidence that gamebooks are making a comeback. It, however, lacks hyperlinks (a drawback of paper technology), but half the fun is rifling through the pages trying to find the right one to turn to. The illustrations also look cool on paper (if I say so myself).
The cards are printed onto thick Sure Slip Air 305um card stock and will come in their own custom tuck box. They're textured so they don't slide around so much and they look and feel awesome. You can use them to keep track of the gear you and your co-pilot are carrying and in a pinch you can even play a game of poker (or Space Whist) with them. They're also printed in the UK.
Finally the dice are normal dice except the 1 face will be replaced with a laser-engraved Two-Fisted Fantasy logo. They'll probably bring you luck when playing these games. Again, engraved in the UK.
They're all pretty good.
The digital edition's complete, so why Kickstarter? Well, a couple reasons. Firstly, while I think digital books are pretty good and convenient, it's not the same experience as flipping through the pages of a real book. I believe Kickstarter is the best way to get these books into everyone's hands. Once we reach the target the production costs will be low enough to make a printing viable. If the target's exceeded then the money saved on production will be used to improve the product : for instance extra printed items like a pad of adventure sheets, a high quality display box, larger dice, and so on. Also, Kickstarter's a great way to let people know about a new gamebook and to build up a bit of a buzz. There are a lot of people out there playing gamebooks and it'd be great to make their acquantaince. Finally, running a Kickstarter campaign is a surprising amount of fun.
The cash raised in this campaign will first of all go to printing. Remaining profits after fees and taxes will fund production of the next book in the Two-Fisted Fantasy lineup. Up-front costs are quite high - web hosting, software licences, the limited amount of marketing I do, travel to expos and (not least) printing up prototypes and sample stock of the physical books and cards.
Of the £600 initial target I calculate that £375 will go into printing cards and books and engraving the dice. £60 will go on Kickstarter and transaction fees. £100 is for shipping. The remainder is a buffer in case fewer cards and more books are ordered than expected (shorter print runs are substantially more expensive per item) or to handle any shortfalls in case the target is hit only narrowly and most of the orders come from overseas (regrettably Kickstarter doesn't separate project funds from shipping costs). Any left over from that will fund the business, handle the taxes (thankfully limited) and keep my Adobe subscription current so I can keep working on the next adventure.
I was a little unprepared for the outpouring of support for this project, but I've found my feet now. Here are the stretch goals for the campaign:
I'm an immigrant Briton who moved from Australia many years ago. I live in Northwest London with my wife, child and a cat.
Life here is pretty good. I spend my free time drawing and writing books. Star Bastards is my first such book - begun in late 2015 it was supposed to be a very short demonstration of the mechanics involved in a larger book (Void Racers) but it ballooned into the full-fledged work you see before you today. It took about three months of sleepless nights to write it, and three more months to do the layout, illustrate it and edit it into something that deserves to be called a two-fisted adventure. I had a huge collection of Fighting Fantasy books when I was a kid and I worked hard to get this one to stack up to the classics. I hope I've succeeded.
When I'm not spending all my time doing things like this I enjoy skulking, stomping around, some yelling and plenty of crouching. My favourite colour is light blue and I'm partial to beer. You now know everything important about me. If you want to look at more of my stuff you can find it at hermitskull.com.
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Risks and challenges
The book is written in its entirety and the Digital Edition is complete. Everyone who backs at any tier level will get this immediately as soon as the Kickstarter is complete (with the possible exception of stretch rewards, they might need some production time).
For the physical tiers there's a very low risk of delays. The books, dice and cards are printed in the UK with a very fast turnaround, and will be delivered to my house where I will package everything together for mailing out. I've picked these companies more for reliability and turnaround time than for price, so although it's in the realms of possibility that a supplier may slow things down it's not all that likely. I already have proofs and prototypes from my printers so they can do the job.
If we exceed the target and lots of people want a copy, that's great! Print costs will come down and it'll allow me to add all kinds of goodies. The challenge here will be keeping items within a reasonable weight limit to keep postal costs down and not overdoing it with the stretch bonuses. I want to give people as much as possible but not run out of cash, because I want to use the proceeds from this kickstarter for my next bit of work.
A final challenge is postal costs. There's no way around this for international backers: they're rough. I'm doing my best to swallow as much of the cost as I can and bring weight down since every gram counts.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)