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Punch, shoot, sleaze and gamble your way across a derelict galactic highway in this old-school gamebook adventure. You call the shots!
Punch, shoot, sleaze and gamble your way across a derelict galactic highway in this old-school gamebook adventure. You call the shots!
Punch, shoot, sleaze and gamble your way across a derelict galactic highway in this old-school gamebook adventure. You call the shots!
146 backers pledged £4,089 to help bring this project to life.

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Star Bastards: A Two-Fisted Sci-Fi Adventure Gamebook

£4,089

146

  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:

---

 If you want to see more of the kind of writing I do check out Sword of the Bastard Elf or Void Racers (linked PDFs, free obviously).

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.

Star Bastards, in the flesh (or paper)
Star Bastards, in the flesh (or paper)

 

A look inside
A look inside

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).

Many of the cards from the prototype deck
Many of the cards from the prototype deck

 

The orange cards are co-pilots. Here are a few.
The orange cards are co-pilots. Here are a few.

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.

The logo for cutting into the dice.
The logo for cutting into the dice.

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.

The whole thing (minus the dice)
The whole thing (minus the dice)

 

 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:

 

Last known image of the author
Last known image of the author

 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.

Keep up to date with Two-Fisted Fantasy on Facebook :

 

Or support this Kickstarter by tweeting your followers about it! Finally, you're welcome to stop by twofistedfantasy.com any time for your two-fisted gamebook adventuring needs.

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.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.44

    ~EDITION CU NIMIC (that's "with nothing" in Matari)~

    If you just want to generally support the project but don't want anything in particular in return, this is the tier for you. It comes with a couple of wallpapers and my thanks. More usefully, you can engage with the project through the comments and get backer-only updates.

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    Pledge £5 or more About $7

    ~THE E-DITION~

    An e-reader version of Star Bastards (two, really, one epub and one mobi) for those of you who'd rather read the story without all those pictures getting in the way (they're all linked at the back of the file though). DRM free and the layout and some of the story is modified to work on e-ink screens. This stretch bonus is also unlocked for backers at the Digital Edition tier and above.

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    Pledge £8 or more About $12

    ~DIGITAL EDITION~

    You get the digital edition of Star Bastards. This includes a fully hyperlinked PDF copy of the book, a digital version of the item and crew card deck and a handy printable quick reference document.

    You get any future updates to the book and supporting documents and also any digital extras that are unlocked during this campaign.

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    Pledge £15 or more About $22

    ~THE GAMEBOOK EDITION~

    You get a printed version of the book for that old-school gamebooking experience. Printed on high quality paper in the UK it's guaranteed to scratch that old-time gaming itch. I'll even sign it if you want.

    Comes complete with the Digital Edition so you can play along on your PC, tablet or wherever. You also get any stretch goals unlocked in relation to the printed book and the Digital Edition.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge £25 or more About $36

    ~THE DELUXE EDITION~

    In addition to everything you get in the Digital and Gamebook Editions, the Deluxe Edition completes the playing experience with a deck of item cards and two laser-engraved Two-Fisted Fantasy dice.

    The cards are printed in the UK on Sure Slip Air 305um playing cards. The texture means they sort of grip. They also look as cool as hell and in a pinch you can play a game of Space Whist (or poker if you'd prefer). They even come in a custom box.

    The dice are also cut in the UK. The Two-Fisted Fantasy logo will be cut onto the 1 face but otherwise they'll function as normal six-sided dice, only they'll be cooler.

    You'll benefit from any of the stretch goals from the Digital and Gamebook Tiers as well as any bonus rewards unlocked for this tier.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge £50 or more About $72

    ~THE COMPLETE BASTARD~

    You get all of the above, and a Star Bastards T-Shirt which will be exclusive to Kickstarter backers as a way to say thank you for your support.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £100 or more About $144

    ~THE TOTAL, UTTER BASTARD~

    This is really only for someone who really wants to support Two-Fisted Fantasy. You get all the above rewards along with any unlocked stretch goals. I'll also talk to you on Skype for however long you want, which might be a useful way to find out how I do things if you were interested in knowing something like that. I can talk about how I put this book together, how the illustrations got done, where I get my ideas from, the games I run on Something Awful or damn near any other thing you want to chat about. I could also discuss any work in progress you've got going on, if you shoot it over to me in advance I can read through it and we could chat about it. Just an idea.

    You'll also get the rare and coveted "Two-Fisted Master" certificate which allows you to turn to paragraph 400 of any Two-Fisted Fantasy, relieving you of the need to play the game in order to win it.

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Funding period

- (30 days)