Over the last couple years, Kickstarter has become the place to go when you want to see the latest and greatest games that the world’s creative minds have to offer.
But while there are no shortage of video game projects making headlines across the Internet, the number of exciting pen-and-paper RPGs are few and far between. But one of the projects that made us sit up and take notice was Kromore 2145, from the independent RAEX Games.
So what got us so interested? Three words: Steampunk in space.
How cool is that?
The game’s creator, T. Julian Bell, took some time to talk to us about the game and Kromore’s Kickstarter campaign, which, as of this writing, has almost half of its funding goal of $20,000 pledged.
Bell’s been toying with the idea of Kromore for years, having been creating game worlds with his friends in his spare time while working in production and design positions in film and TV. When he decided to finally pursue the game full time a few years ago, he was working in the perfect place: a game studio in North Carolina. Unfortunately, while he was in the right place, he had the wrong job. Instead of working as a game designer, he found himself toiling away in the editing and marketing department—exactly where he’d been, but not where he wanted to go.
“After a few months of doing the same thing I had been doing for years, I finally just got this itch to stop pretending and step up and get into game design,” he recalled. “I applied at the time for a writing job—something I think they weren’t expecting from me, as they had no clue of my writing background. After basically a five minute glance at my portfolio, I didn’t get the job.”
A setback like that would usually be enough to stop most folks in their tracks. But instead of shying away from his dream, he decided to go full steam ahead.
“I’m not one for short-changing a project when I set my mind to something,” said Bell, “and as soon as I didn’t make the writing gig I immediately started what would inevitably become RAEX, or the Role-playing Adventure Experience.”
While he’d commissioned friends to play-test his game as it evolved, about three years ago Bell came to the realization that he might have a winner on his hands. He recruited roughly a hundred game testers and refined RAEX into what it is now.
So just what is RAEX? Bell offered up a brief description of what sets his game and the Kromore setting apart:
“Ultimately you have a very open character creation and character progression path that allows for players to pick what they want to make custom characters. On players’ turns, they have three actions to use however they’d like. Everything in the game has action cost values and will either use one, two, or three actions. Moving, for example, is one action and could be done one, two, or three times on a player’s turn.
“Defenses have layers with cover, dodge, parry, shields, armors, and life points. Unlike most games that require a roll to hit and a roll for damage, everything is included in one attack. The attack is one, two, or three actions depending on the power of the attack, weapon, or spell. When the attack is made it’s reduced by the target’s defenses. Defenses have hit points so any time armor or shields reduce an attack, the armor or shield actually takes that amount in hit points and slowly begins to break down.”
“Strategy plays out based on how you decide to tackle enemy armor and how you wear your own. Some characters don’t wear any armor, but instead use actions to exchange for cover bonuses and dodge buffs. Everything is customizable, so you have lots of options for special gear, sidekicks, and your character’s abilities. There are literally hundreds of abilities, and those that aren’t passive abilities all have action costs that are used in combat.”
As for the story itself, the Kromore setting is full of characters who fight for what they think is right, but few of them are outright “evil.” For Bell, the best stories come from characters who think that what they’re doing is for the greater good—even if it’s at the expense of others.
“I like to tell stories in the grey area,” he said. “The big ‘bad guys’ in Kromore are the Kalin Parliamentary Order, or the K.P.O. But honestly they’re just the most powerful group on the planet and trying to do what they feel is right.
“In opposition to them are the Steam Rebels, who we plug as the ‘good guys,’ but who are really just thieves and usurpers. The K.P.O. just offers this great presence of a powerful nation that’s trying to keep the world together in the best ways they know how. It’s the social relationship the nations have with one another that really makes Kromore stand out and will make players feel like they are a part of a breathing universe.
“The grey area is good for storytelling.”
As to what will happen should the Kickstarter campaign not hit its goal, Bell isn’t too worried.
“It’s by no means the end of the world,” he said. “If the initial Kickstarter doesn’t get funded, have no fear. You can expect the project to be re-posted with a much smaller funding target and more simplistic goals of just getting the main book to fans without all the extra fluff. All in all, reaching the $20,000 goal set now would allow for a mass order of high quality books, pay for artist fees, marketing, shipping, distribution, and just about everything legal you can name.”
That’s the beauty of Kickstarter. “If we don’t hit it,” he said, “we’ll just scale back and try again.”
With about half a month to go in the campaign, there’s still time for the crowdfunding effort to pick up steam and hit its $20,000 goal. And, if nothing else, if Bell and RAEX Games is forced to re-Kick later on, there’s at least $9,000 in pledged support waiting, if not much more.
“Kromore 2145 is a brand new project for the tabletop gaming world, and with new things comes trial and error in finding out exactly what the audience wants,” said Bell. “I’ve gotten a ton of great feedback and made some amazing connections already, and that can only make things stronger going forward. A Kickstarter is a way to reach fans and pay for a higher level project than you can do on your own. I don’t have the benefit of having a big studio behind me, but what I do have is a lot of drive.
“What I do know is Kromore 2145 is happening—Kickstarter success or not.”
Art by Christopher Balaskas & Kyle Thelen, Kromore 2145 on Kickstarter