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A completely unhinged fantasy adventure gamebook. Find the Bastard Elf a place to crash using two dice and your two rock-hard fists!
A completely unhinged fantasy adventure gamebook. Find the Bastard Elf a place to crash using two dice and your two rock-hard fists!
241 backers pledged £4,692 to help bring this project to life.

Update 50: The Bestiary

Posted by Hermit Skull (Creator)

Howdy, here's another update about The Sword of the Bastard Elf. Today it's about the physical rewards, updates to the Elf product line, the Bestiary and a general overview of the whole project, since the really hard part is over with now. It's a long one, so buckle in!

So firstly, all the physical rewards have been mailed off - I'm talking dice, USB sticks, bookmarks and the like. Like everything else to do with this project it took a little longer than expected - most backers went for some kind of physical reward and I was the only one packing them, so it took a while. Anyhow they were all mailed out in roughly backer order since the last update and the last lot went out on Friday, so you should have them soon no matter where you are in the world. For those of you who backed at a pledge level that involved a print, please get in touch with me any time with your preference and I'll mail you your thing (it doesn't have to be a print even, since I'm using RedBubble if you'd prefer I can put the picture on a shirt, a mug, whatever you want really!). If you don't contact me soon I'll give you a decent interval to read the book and then I'll send you a message about it so don't feel rushed.

If your stuff doesn't arrive, please let me know. I know when everything was sent and roughly when it should arrive, so if you're still waiting around on Friday drop me a line.

As you'll probably be aware, some new Elf products are available or have been updated: firstly there's a Travel Edition of the Elf which is significantly smaller and about 25% cheaper to print than the black and white copy - I've mailed out your codes but in case you're not a KS backer or just want to look at the product page it's here . I'm pleased with the result - it's actually possible to take this one someplace without getting weird looks, though it loses some of the presence of the original plus all the RPG rules and a few pictures. Still, it's a thing that exists. This is an Amazon proof but the DriveThru one is the same size (it lacks the "not for resale" bar across the front though).

Size comparison (and proof it exists)
Size comparison (and proof it exists)

I also updated the Item Card Deck Book's PDF with all the annotations found in the print version, and slightly increased the price of the PDF which has no effect on Kickstarter backers. The PDF that comes with the actual item cards is still the non-annotated variety at the original price. Anyway if you used your PDF download code for the Deck Book already the file on your account will be updated.

With those things done, the next bit of work is The Bestiary. I've started some preliminary sketches and layout for the book. After asking around it seems like the preferred format is the same dimensions as the Elf, since it's a companion volume, though it will obviously be much, much shorter. So there should be a hardcover colour and a softcover black and white version available so it can sit neatly on the shelf next to the Elf.

So far the general layout for the book involves a traditional bestiary/travel guide in the first section, written from the point of view of Sir Tedbald, who you may have run into or at least heard about on your adventures. Following that are some hints and tips for getting to the major (and difficult) endings in the Elf. Then there's going to be the RPG section, adding a new playable race (Goblins), a new special character class (Big Rock Goblins, probably), some new rules expanding the campaign mechanics, a kind of scenario generator and a new short adventure set in Bilgeton. Finally the epilogue.

Originally I intended to make the first section a choose your own adventure so as to make it the "DLC", but I couldn't find a way to make it fun. So instead the Epilogue will be expanded to a DLC - continuing the story of the Elf once he's settled in Bilgeton and unexpectedly (or expectedly, depending on how you did in the main adventure) thrust into a position of actual power over the entire city thanks to the chaos engulfing Bilgeton due to the events of the main quest, how will you handle the consequences of the things you did or completely failed to do? Aside from letting me make a few more jokes at the Elf's expense it will hopefully give us all some closure on the things that happened in the book without having to wait years (or forever) for a sequel.

If there is anything you want in the Bestiary - don't hesitate to ask! I want to include things that will improve the experience of reading the Elf, and I don't necessarily know what anyone wants from this thing. 

As to how long this will take : I don't know. I will get it done as fast as possible consistent with it being good and will update regularly with status reports, probably fortnightly. Don't expect it to take as long as the main book! If you are holding off buying a physical copy of Elf from DriveThru because of the Bestiary and it takes longer than the end of the year (which I hope it doesn't) I will re-issue a new batch of codes. 

Other priorities which I'll deal with are updating the 2FF and Hermit Skull websites so they're not horribly ugly and out of date, and preparing marketing materials. I will be at Gamesfest in Tring on October 20 so drop by if you're around. In the meantime if you want to help me sell books please tell a friend about the Elf or leave a review someplace :)

And now the overview of the project in general.

First I'd like to thank you all for your support and your incredible patience as this project ran brutally over its timelines. I didn't expect that the story I had to tell had so much in it. Originally it was set to be 700 paras long, but I had more jokes. Writing such a long book was indulgent and a challenge beyond what I expected, so thanks for putting up with it and letting me do whatever I want while I held your money hostage. 

Thanks to the exhausting nature of writing a book of that size and the stress of blasting through the deadline, I released the components of the book as they became available, spamming your inboxes and increasing your shipping costs, or forcing you to wait while the various components became available so they could be ordered together. I'm also worried that not everyone understood the nature of the print on demand model, which allowed me to make the book at an affordable price but shifted added costs to backers. While print on demand is second nature to me and anyone familiar with RPGs on KS, it didn't occur to me that a lot of people who read gamebooks might be more book people than RPG people, and print on demand pre-ordering of this type is pretty unusual for books. I can only apologise for this confusion: I did my best to explain the deal on the product page but can understand if it all seemed opaque or irrelevant to the idea of getting a book. Additionally, the cost of the cards shipping from the US is a bit backbreaking, a factor which I hadn't taken into account pretty much because I didn't pay for the card shipping with Star Bastards and because I had done my own printing locally. I tried to overcome this problem by making a pre-printed "Deck book" available which I hope was the superior product, as well as the printable item list and the print and play cards, but I can understand people's annoyance at missing out on a thing they wanted.

I also got very bogged down in writing and drawing - I actually had very little spare time for anything else, which caused some communications with backers not to be logged properly (especially for those who fell off the KS system for one reason or another). I think in the end I pulled most of it together but it taught me a fun lesson.

So where am I going with all this? I think next time, if I run a Kickstarter for another gamebook, I'll be trying to do the following things:

1. The book will be mostly, but not entirely, written and illustrated before I go to the KS. The structure will be there but there will be some wriggle room to allow for new ideas and backer submissions. I will have a good idea of the page count and therefore likely costs for printing and shipping the book.

2. Supplemental items like the card deck will be planned and the production costs will be known in advance. They will be prepared in time to coincide with the release of the book. 

3. I will either hire someone or use a proper CRM system for dealing with correspondence with backers so nothing slips through the cracks.

4. Probably most importantly, assuming the book is short enough to make this feasible (it wasn't with the Elf), I will either manage the printing and distribution of the books and rewards myself or hire someone to do it, potentially setting up a second printing and distribution setup in the US as well to bring costs down. Print on Demand will remain an option for any backers - I think making the PDF + all POD options as cheap as possible was a winner, but some people don't want to mess with that and I respect that. If I can deliver as good a product myself at a fair price, I will. Since the page counts/card numbers will be known before the KS launch and the fulfilment date will be much closer to the end of the project it should be easy enough to do this. 

Ok, so I'm done. Thanks again, and you will hear from me soon. If you're on the Facebook group ( I'll post whenever I do an update, but until the Bestiary is complete you won't receive another email alert about Elf updates. I hope you swing by here sometimes to see what's going on but anyhow I'll let you know when the Bestiary's done and send you your PDF and POD codes.

Cheers and I hope you're enjoying the book you helped make.

S. Iacob (aka Sam Miller)

Two-Fisted Fantasy 

PS: The next book's going to be about steamboat pirates

Wagon Wheels, Michael Reilly, and 1 more person like this update.


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    1. Hermit Skull 3-time creator on

      I should have said that Star Bastards has less than half the page count, not "half as long" : it's only 400 sections on smaller pages and larger, friendlier type and even then it's only 330 pages. The Elf is a monstrous tome in comparison.

    2. Hermit Skull 3-time creator on

      Cheers for the remarks, and yes going via Print on Demand greatly reduced the upfront costs to backers which placing a significant cost on them further down the line. Still, it's unlikely I would have been able to produce or ship Sword of the Bastard Elf at anything approaching a reasonable cost, even if I had worked out the specifications in advance. Star Bastards, a book less than 1/2 as long and physically smaller as well, was priced at £15 before shipping (which was also expensive, coming from the UK I believe it was £7 at least to ship the book to the US, going up to £25+£10 postage for the cards (a regular-sized card deck) and the book with a couple of dice. It was seriously, seriously expensive and even then I wasn't turning a profit. Personally I think Elf is the better deal even if it's annoying to pay twice.

      I also think that the PDF+ print option combo is good because I'm a new writer and not many people know me - spending £5 up front for my work is a brave use of your money and you should get to sample what I do to see if you like it before plonking down the lot on the luxury hardcover edition. So next time I'll definitely offer both a printed book and the print on demand codes, and be very transparent about pricing, because I'll be able to be. And since I've done it a couple of times now I think I've worked out a few ways to save money on the production costs, especially in getting a friend in America to handle distribution from there while setting up some production in the UK/EU as well, depending on demand.

      And yeah, an unbelievable amount of work was needed to get the Elf into shape. I had deluded myself that I could use the text from the Let's Play version, which was essentially a single track through the book without any alternative options explored, and use that as about a fifth to a quarter of the book. In the end I don't think I got more than 50 paragraphs out of it and I had to rework a lot of those too. While this gave me a LOT of flexibility (for instance a backer helped design an entire path through the book with something like 10 scenes, and though it's a major track you might never come across it because there's so much else going on), it also made it impossible to meet the deadlines I'd set no matter how hard I worked. Next time I'll strike a compromise.

    3. James M.

      Thanks for the info. A few remarks:

      I'm one of the people holding off on ordering until everything is in, since I'd rather only pay for shipping once, but making things available as they're done was a good idea for people who don't want to wait. As long as discount codes are still available then, whether they're the original ones or new ones, it's good. :)

      I think you made the print-on-demand aspect here clear enough -- I think that's the main reason the cost here was lower than Star Bastards where pledge costs covered physical books. Either way can work, and as long as people know what they're getting into, it should be fine. I'm not sure what gamebook backers are most used to, but I'll say that to the best of my memory, this is the first Kickstarter I backed that used print-on-demand. Everything else that was books of some deliver printed books directly, though they're not all gamebooks.

      FWIW, I think I would prefer that all costs be covered here in Kickstarter. It's nice to know that you're paid in full when the campaign is over. A number of projects I've backed have collected (or will collect) shipping charges post-campaign in a pledge manager. I guess it can help for the creator and reduce the up-front pledge level costs, but it's added cost on the backers after the fact. I think sometimes we backers can forget that projects aren't fully paid because of that (I'm pretty sure I have), leading to some degree of surprise that we still owe money when we get to the pledge manager. But as I said, as long as it's clear how things are running and people know what they're getting into, it should be fine, even if it's not our favorite way of doing things.

      Plans for a new book sound good to me. It seems like a sort of compromise between Star Bastards, which was essentially done when it came to Kickstarter, and this one where (apparently) a lot of work was needed to get things into their final state. Going in with much, but not all, of the work done should allow some flexibility without possibly causing long delays or extra work for you.