The Sword of the Bastard Elf is a two-fisted single-player adventure gamebook, played with a pencil, some paper and a couple of regular six-sided dice. If you've ever played my other book Star Bastards, a Choose Your Own Adventure title or any of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks from the 80s or 90s you'll know what's going on. For everyone else : it's a role-playing game where the book acts as the dungeon master. You turn to different sections of the book based on your decisions and how well you tackle the challenges the book chucks at you. It includes a simple ruleset for dealing with fights, freakouts, inventory management, crafting and the mysterious Words of Power. Like all the classic gamebooks it features page after page of overwrought, baroque artwork of the monsters you battle and setbacks you encounter.
This Kickstarter is to fund the production of the book (which should be completed in or before November 2017) and to get the people that are interested in these kinds of gamebooks involved in the production itself. Everyone's invited to playtest, comment and follow along with development, and I've opened up pledge levels that let the backers have a big say on how a lot of the book's going to turn out. The Sword of the Bastard Elf is a completely off-the-wall adventure that couldn't have been anywhere near as good without the weirdos that played along, and I reckon the full version would benefit from the same treatment.
The half-human Bastard Elf has been turfed out of home at the cruelly young age of 60 and needs to find some place to crash! Using only his (limited) wits, (pitiful) skills and whatever he can swipe from his horrible stepfather Jeff (who he will NEVER call Dad no matter how many times his mother asks) he must set out on an epic quest across a perilous fantasy world packed with vicious monsters, dangerous pitfalls and completely untrustworthy denizens. Will the Bastard Elf reconnect with his human father (the enigmatic Wandering Milkman), become famed and filthy rich through his heroic deeds or die in a ditch very near to where he started out? Well, that's up to you, a couple of dice and your two rock-hard fists to decide.
The game's set in the County of Nonce, an appendix of the human Kingdom of Palaver. Just like in the rest of the kingdom the hard working but crooked humans are the most numerous of the denizens but they live in varying degrees of ease alongside the dwarfs, goblins and undead and at very little ease with elfs, pixies, faeries and other forest filth. Starting out from Elfsdale Downs in the northwest you'll have plenty of strange locations to explore, make enemies in and probably get run out of . Will you get lost in one of the great woods and stumble into the Pixie Glade? Roam the Endless Plain of Fortune? Scale the Skytrap Mountains? Tumble through the threadbare fabric of the universe and into the Daemonic Planes? Wash up in the huge trading metropolis of Bilgeton, or turn up floating face-down in the Bilge?
Whatever you choose I'm pretty sure it's going to be a good time. The Sword of the Bastard Elf is a firmly tongue in cheek tribute to the early 80s and the gamebooks of the era. But though it's a stereotypical fantasy slog, nothing here will work quite the way you expect. You don't play a hero, your quest isn't in any way noble and the people and creatures you'll run into are all doing their own thing and not all that interested in whatever a deranged half-elf wants from them.
So what's taking shape here is a fairly lengthy single-player RPG, in the neighbourhood of 600 sections. The Sword of the Bastard Elf originated on the Something Awful forums where I pretended to have found a forgotten gamebook from the early 80s. Now that I'm fleshing it out into a fully playable adventure I won't stray from that formula - don't expect to see any references to anything that happened after about 1983, and if you do it's fair to say that later productions have ripped off this seminal work.
The book will be illustrated throughout with original art from me, Sam Iacob (I also illustrated Star Bastards), in full colour as well depending on the format you go for. The book will be available in PDF and print formats. Also coming with the book - a deck of item cards and the Bestiary, a companion volume detailing the denizens of the world of The Sword of the Bastard Elf and some additional background information. So for £5 you'll get:
- The book
- A deck of cards
- The Bestiary supplement
- The Sword of the Bastard Elf expansion pack (print and PC game)
These will be fulfilled via DriveThruRPG. You'll get the PDFs added to your DriveThru library and you can any or all of the items printed at cost (see below and the FAQ).
I'm working on all these things now and will continue working throughout the campaign and afterwards - leaping aboard here will let you get involved and you'll be kept up-to-date with progress in a way I probably won't bother with outside of this site. Anyone who pledges at £5 or above is invited to play test at any point during the development process or chat with me at will about whatever I'm up to : there's no special tier for this kind of stuff. So for your £5 you'll also get to
- Playtest the book if you want to
- Get regular updates on the work in progress and nosy around to the extent it's possible to do that
- Talk to the author and artist and suggest things if you've got anything to suggest
- Be part of putting together a strange and wonderful thing.
After the campaign and my completing the work, the core book, cards and Bestiary will be fulfilled by DriveThruRPG. If you like you can take the PDFs with no more to pay or you can buy any of the prints at cost price when the time comes.
DriveThru sets the prices for their prints and they're subject to change but they're always reasonable and the quality's good. You can use the Print Cost Calculator and the card costs chart to get a feel for how much they charge for their various formats. See the FAQ for some estimated costs.
I ran a successful campaign not long ago with Star Bastards but I got the feeling that I really missed a trick by coming to Kickstarter with a print-ready product when I think a lot of the backers wanted to get more involved in the project. The original Sword of the Bastard Elf is the first lengthy thing I ever wrote, and I want the complete book to be spectacular and to be read by as many people as possible. This time I've opened up a lot of opportunities to not just play the book but to get involved in shaping it - some people might pledge at tiers which add characters and items to the book but anyone who wants to can play test the latest drafts or get in touch with me directly to discuss game systems and ideas. I don't just want to sell a book and some stuff but to work with people who are excited about gamebooks in general and this weird little series in particular.
THE BOOK AND RPG
During the original playthrough of Sword of the Bastard Elf on the Something Awful forums it was implied that the full book was as thick as a phonebook, mainly because of the rules which were stupidly complicated and unnecessarily comprehensive. You'll be pleased to know that these have been replicated in the new edition! The single player adventure has a short and easy-to-grasp rules section but the book also contains a full ruleset for a light multi-player RPG which will allow players to get stuck in to the world of The Sword of the Bastard Elf! Probably most suitable for short gaming sessions, the RPG will allow you to create characters from four of the realm's species (humans, elfs, dwarfs and skeletons) and train them in one of the five main adventuring professions (goon, scumbag, loudmouth, nutcase and drifter), then run them round the capitol city of the setting where they do their best to get out of sharing their loot with their compatriots.
The RPG has a few interesting twists which I think you'll enjoy:
- No default species - all species have a unique disadvantage and goal which grants extra experience.
- Everything's covered by just three stats.
- It's not based primarily on combat - fights are dangerous and (mostly) illegal, and the player characters aren't really warriors or particularly mighty or even brave.
- A spell system which involves chaining together spell effects on the fly.
- A campaign system which covers decades of play and aging, assuming the characters live that long.
Also it's free with the book, so even without the Bestiary (see below) players and Dungeon Bastards alike are going to have a good grasp on the setting after a playthrough or two of The Sword of the Bastard Elf!
You can check out the early draft of the rules right now in fact! Click the image below and take a look at version 0.3 of The Sword of the Bastard Elf rules and instructions. Just so we're clear - these aren't fully baked yet. Testing is ongoing and will continue through this campaign and beyond!
The PDF version of the book will of course be hyperlinked throughout but fans of the printed word will need to dig around the old-fashioned way. Everyone from the £5 tier and up gets the book in a format of their choice. The formats are PDF in colour, softcover and hardcover in black and white and colour.
If you want to see a little more of what you can expect from The Sword of the Bastard Elf, please check out the PDF of the original saga by clicking on the image link below (or click here to add it to your DriveThruRPG library). Warning: it contains minor spoilers for one path of the upcoming adventure. Please also note that the art and the writing is going to be greatly improved in this new version!
THE CARDS AND BESTIARY
Although not strictly necessary for playing the gamebooks, Two-Fisted Fantasy adventures always make use of cards as an option. They make inventory management easier and look nice as well. This book has a crafting system which will allow you to combine item cards into more powerful (or, sometimes, worthless) things that'll aid you on your quest (or, sometimes, not). Every backer at £5 and up will get a copy of the card deck in a format of their choice. The PDF will be bookmarked for ease of use which is something that can't be said of the physical deck, though the print quality that DriveThru puts out is superb. If you prefer to use neither the book will contain an item list too.
The design for the new cards hasn't been finalised yet though here is the current draft design :
The card backs will have maps with game prompts for use with the RPG (or any other RPG with a fantasy setting).
The Bestiary will serve as a lore book and monster manual. It's also going to include at least two scenarios for the RPG. Backers at £5 can get this in a format of their choosing too. This will be sold separately after the Kickstarter, as will the cards.
For backers at the £10 level I thought it'd be nice to have a couple of little physical rewards to say thanks. You'll get a couple of custom engraved dice and a pair of bookmarks, plus any stretch goals and things I think of to chuck in along the way. One of the bookmarks will be oversized and have a map on the front and a reusable adventure sheet on the back, an innovation of the talented Kevin Abbotts which was also used for Star Bastards. All of these items will be sent direct from me.
Here's the design that'll be engraved on the dice:
At the £20 level you'll also get a cool 8GB wooden USB stick with the classy design you just saw engraved on one side and the Two-Fisted Fantasy logo printed on the other. It'll look a bit like this:
Perhaps of more interest to you is that I'll cram it full of design notes, works in progress and all kinds of stuff related to the making of The Sword of the Bastard Elf which might be cool to have if you're thinking of doing a thing like this yourself or if you want a keepsake of the time you spent backing and/or following this project. Or you can format it and have a wooden 8GB USB drive with a picture of an elf on the side. Like the dice and bookmarks it'll come direct from me.
The Skeleton Friend and Rich Lich tiers come with an exclusive t-shirt that will never be sold again after this Kickstarter. It can also be added to any other tier level for £25, including shipping to anywhere in the world. This will come at you from Design By Humans immediately after the campaign ends so you've got something to wear while you wait for the book.
The Rich Lich backers will also receive a high quality photographic print of any illustration in the book, which they can pick whenever they see something they particularly like. It'll come in at 360mm by 610mm or 14.2" by 24" and is supplied from Redbubble. If you want one of these you can add it for £50 at any pledge level. If the stretch goal for colourising the images is reached then you can of course pick between a colour or black and white print, it's up to you. Frame and leaves not included.
GET IN HERE
Several tiers allow you to get into the book! Anyone backing at Bastard Elf (£10) or above gets their name in the thank you page at the front of the book.
Face in the book - at Regular Human (£15) or higher your face will be immortalised somewhere in the book. Will you turn up on a piece of interstitial artwork, as a face in a crowd or a grisly trophy tied to a monster's loincloth? Only time will tell.
Dwarf, Goblin, Rutting Forest Bat, Wandering Milkman and JEFF are all limited tiers which allow you to add paragraphs, items, characters, locations and even entire quest lines to the book. If you pick one of these tiers I'll be in touch very shortly after the campaign to discuss what you've got in mind - we'll work together to make something great! It's gotta fit with the theme and general tone of the Elf (pre-1983, no overt sex, nothing that will make the average weirdo who reads something called a Two-Fisted Fantasy physically ill).
Three possible add-ons for anyone at any pledge level. If you want them add the following amount to your pledge and send me a message and I'll make sure you get what's coming to you.
- £25 - I'll send you a t-shirt.
- £40 (reduced price)- For a high-quality photographic print of any illustration in the book.
Please enjoy this selection of rewards in return for your pledge.
All the stretch goals were unlocked! We have achieved Maximum Elf.
- Mid Dec 2016 - The campaign wraps up. I'll buy up the raw materials I need (dice, USB sticks and bookmarks mostly) to make sure prices don't shoot up before I finish delivery. T-shirts will go out immediately.
- From start of Jan 2017-September 2017 or thereabouts - I'll be working hard on the book. There will be frequent updates to the Kickstarter page in particular, no more one week apart (though in practice it could sometimes be more frequently since I like to post about what I'm doing so long as anyone's interested)
- In mid January I'll get in touch with anyone who's backed at a level which adds items, entries, characters, locations and storylines to the book so we can start the ball rolling.
- September 2017 - I'll be going on vacation for a couple of weeks. Hopefully by now the book, cards and Bestiary are finished.
- October 2017 - Books set up to go through DriveThru's print set up process. Depending on how many versions are made available through the stretch goals this might take a little while but I'll get there. Surveys will go out at this time.
- November 2017 - You'll get your DriveThru codes and gubbins packs at long last.
If possible I will work faster than this. This timeline will allow for a measured pace that will minimise the chance of wearing myself out but sometimes I just feel like going for broke and it might get done sooner.
WHERE'S THE MONEY GOING
The cash is going to cover my addiction to the Adobe products that I use to make these books, and to cover production costs for the physical items and their postage, as well as covering Kickstarter's fees. At the goal I break even financially. Anything beyond that (in stretch goal territory) goes towards building inventory, purchasing a decent stall set up for conventions, paying to actually go to those conventions and probably a decent bottle of whisky if there's anything left over after all that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I'm a 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. So far I've completed Star Bastards which had a successful campaign a bit earlier in the year and I'm working hard on The Sword of the Bastard Elf. You can check out my entire back-catalogue on DriveThruRPG - all of it except Star Bastards is completely free. The Wizard of Warlock Tower is based in the same setting as The Sword of the Bastard Elf so maybe you'd like to check it out too.
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. You can also keep up to date with Two-Fisted Fantasy on Facebook if you like.
Thanks for your time!
Risks and challenges
Recent events in the UK and US have done weird things to the currency which makes price fluctuations an annoying fact of life when you're buying stuff from overseas. In particular the value of the pound is declining which makes electronic stuff like USB sticks relatively more expensive. I'll deal with this by running as short a campaign as feasible and buying up stock as soon as I know how many to order.
My last project was basically complete at the time I went to Kickstarter whereas this one is far closer to the start of development than the end. I've shown that I can deliver a project and constant progress updates will reassure people that I'm on target.
Stretch goals can add a bit to the complexity of a project and can risk delays and cost blowouts. I've taken this into account with my existing stretch goals. Should we be lucky enough to reach them I've picked goals that won't take a huge amount of extra time (they can be worked into what I'm already doing or will take only a few extra days to put together) or add any serious costs to production and, importantly, shipping weight.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)