An Open Letter to Our International Backers

Earlier this week we sent out an open letter to our international Kickstarter backers. We are sharing this message here:

Each game we make takes an incredible amount of time to design, play test, and publish. The idea may come from one person, or from a group of people, but even a game that is made by a single person cannot become a reality without the support of a lot of people who believe in it.

Addictive Alchemy is no exception. Dave designed the game as a challenge to himself, to make a game using only cards, and no other pieces. His local gaming community quickly jumped on board and from there support starting coming in from no less than three continents. All of this was before it was even put on Kickstarter.

You’ve been a big part of this support from around the world. Even though Addictive Alchemy is one game, you’ve shown us something that we see every day in this world, something that is important to remember: we are better when we work together, when we support common goals, dreams, and ideas.

Things that get in the way, like building walls, creating intolerance or misunderstandings can only hurt us. We want to say to you, our international backers, and to the international community, that we don’t believe in separation, inequity, or regression. We believe in building a world that connects people who support each other.

As a token of this, VectoriaDesigns and Team Alchemy have worked together again to create a new card. We won’t pretend the message is subtle. We want to be clear when we say this: we stand together. The art, the symbol for the green potions, and the effects of the card all reflect that message.

If you backed Addictive Alchemy as an international backer, or pre-ordered it from an address outside of the US, we will mail you this card.

A “print and play” version of the card will be made available for everyone from our website, or from the Addictive Alchemy page on Board Game Geek once we finalize it.

Please keep an eye out for it in the coming months.

We hope you find strength and support in our message.

Thank you,

Team Alchemy & VectoriaDesigns

Joachim Brackx, Tinne Diels, Jenn Lee, Jason Stone, Mir Mohammad, Joel Valencia, Elizabeth Gulsby, and David Lupo.

You can see the original post here:

Addictive Alchemy Funded!

The first thing I want to say is if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Kickstarter for Addictive Alchemy, then please do so here:

The second thing is I want to thank everyone for making the game such a success! We launched on March 4th, and by the morning of the 3rd day we were funded! We are well on our way to our first stretch goal as well!

In anticipation of that we’ll be releasing images of the new cards that will come with that stretch goal in an up and coming announcement. To get you started I thought I’d share a sneak peak of one of the cards here:

In the world of Addictive Alchemy potion mixing has its own laws that differ from the normal laws of science. In that way an unstable catalyst is an oxymoron in chemistry, but a well known effect in alchemy. This kind of thinking allows alchemists to make fantastic potions which can allow them to shoot fireballs, but just because these potions appear nearly magical does not mean they aren’t grounded in the natural world. Vervain Vortex is a side effect that underscores this tie alchemy has with nature, but it does so in a way that makes sure you don’t forget about the true power of alchemy.

Dreams of Kickstarters

First a little back story. I grew up in a family of artists. Everyone could paint, draw, or both. Oddly, all of my friends growing up were artists as well. I desperately wanted to be one, and everyday I practiced drawing, only to see people pick up a pencil for the first time draw pictures better than me. By the time I turned 17 I had to let go of my dream. As I prepared to move on I looked back.

I looked back, and saw how much I loved games. When I was eight I made my first game, it was a role playing game about being a rock star. It was terrible, and the other RPGs and card games I made at that age weren’t really any better. Still, that was the thing that I enjoyed doing, and could see myself getting better, so I kept at it. I am a software developer today because of it, and I am happy whether I am making video games or board games, so learning to program was key to having a chance at designing video games.

The whole path of my life has been guided by my desire to make games. As a young adult I focused on school and my job more than rushing straight into game design. I knew I needed to increase the odds of success by building a foundation, but each step in that path was weighed through the filter of how it would bring me closer to being a game designer.

Finally 14 years ago I revisited game design properly, and made several games. I learned a lot of important lessons, but the time was not right, so I took a few years off of showing my games to the public. In that time I privately worked on projects to hone my skills.

Four years ago I brought one of my games to the public again, and it was well received, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. From that point on I’ve been working on several projects that I’ve talked about on this site. The one I’m most proud of is Addictive Alchemy.

Addictive Alchemy has been two years in the making. Well that’s not fair. The game almost as we know it today was ready two years ago. The rest of the time has been spent testing, confirming, and demoing games, and building my company New World Alchemy so that we can properly publish board games. I believe a self made man does not do it alone. Addictive Alchemy is not something that I have done alone. I have an incredibly talented team of artists, editors, analysts, and more who have given so much of their time to make my dream come true. When I count the names on the list of play testers for Addictive Alchemy alone (over 100 people), and I look at the people who are out there promoting it and sharing it with others I am uncertain how I can properly thank them.

All I can do is make sure their support, and effort is not wasted. This has gone past my dream, and I owe all of these people a published game, a game many of them have been asking me for a copy of for years now. Just like with making this game, this is not something I can do alone. This is where I have to ask everyone to help make this Kickstarter happen.

Let’s talk about Addictive Alchemy, share stories, and photos to make this game a reality.

I don’t want to let any of you down, and that’s why I am doing this right. That’s why I’ve hired a team of experts. That’s why I’ve waited until it’s ready.

That’s why I am here right now saying that we will have our Kickstarter launch on March 4, 2015

Thank you for helping to support my dream 31 years in the making.

The Treasury – A Clever Solution to Bad Bits

Bad bits. We’ve all had them. I know for me the most recent, and most frustrating experience with a bad bit was only made worse by the fact that those bits belong to my current favorite board game. Oh, I suppose I should clarify what I mean by a bad bit. I’m talking about those pieces in a board game that either through poor design, quality, or some other fault negatively impact the fun of the game. In this case I’m talking about Temporum an incredibly clever, well designed game by Donald X. Everything about the game is incredible, including the currency that comes with the game, except it doesn’t have nearly enough of the lower denominations of the currency. As a result every turn you’re making change. This slows the game down, and gets in the way of the fun. What do you do in this situation? Well, after confirming that I can’t purchase extra pieces I got frustrated.

Then one morning I found out about a Kickstarter project that will solve this problem, and similar bad bit problems. I’m talking about The Treasury by Know Chance Games. The Treasury’s primary goal is to give players access to a high quality alternative to paper money. As the Kickstarter video points out paper money is never fun to handle, and it doesn’t last, or look good. The Treasury fixes that on several fronts by giving you access to one or more decks of card money. This means the money looks good, is game neutral, and can be sleeved. I’m really surprised other game companies haven’t tried to fill this need before, but I’m glad it’s about to be filled.

Addictive Alchemy’s Logo

Three years ago I made my first board game in ages. It featured potions, alchemists, and zapping your friends while having a good time doing it.

This, is, not that game…

Addictive Alchemy

is the successor of that game, and I am happy to present the first look at the official logo for Addictive Alchemy.

VectoriaDesigns has once again outdone themselves with a gorgeous piece of art that also serves as the game’s logo.

The number one question people ask me is when will Addictive Alchemy be on Kickstarter? The answer is we are almost ready.

The second most common question people ask me is when will I bring back Aggressive Alchemy? I am happy to answer that I will resume the design of Addictive Alchemy’s predecessor in first quarter of 2015.

Addictive Alchemy Art Update: Side Effects

The Kickstarter for Addictive Alchemy will be here shortly! We’ve got almost all of the details ready for launch. One of those details happens to be the updated art for the side effect cards! I’m very excited to show you a few of the side effects here!

If you’re wondering about the exact date of the Kickstarter don’t worry as soon as it’s set there will be an update, and you’ll have time to spread the word!

Havok & Hijinks – Don’t slay a dragon… BE one!

I’m really excited about this week’s interview. About a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting the team at Epic Slant Press, and not only did I get a chance to try their incredibly fun card game, but I learned a lot about the business of game design, Kickstarter, and even leadership. I was so impressed with the team I backed the project that night, and later when I found out about their other projects I had to share them with the rest of you.

Recently, their team leader, Adam “Ferrel” Trzonkowski, took a few moments to talk with me about all of these things including Havok & Hijinks

Twix the Magnificent

David : Hello Adam thanks for taking the time to meet with me today.

Adam: It’s my pleasure David, thank you for your interest in me and our project.  I really appreciate it.

David: I want to start by saying I had the pleasure of meeting you, and your team at Epic Slant Press, during last year’s DragonCon in Atlanta Georgia. You told me several things that have stood out to me as interesting, and useful. In fact I’d say I got more from our brief conversation than an entire con’s worth of panels. The first of those being that Epic Slant Press works to be a business run with a positive tone both inside, and out. I didn’t think to ask for details on how you do it, but even in our brief conversation I saw signs of it. Still, I’d like to learn more about this practice?
Read more

What is it like to play Ryuutama?

Recently I talked with Matt Sanchez about the incredibly popular Kickstarter Ryuutama. Myself, and some other people had followup thoughts and questions for Matt, so he kindly agreed to let us get some more details about the upcoming game. I think the important thing to remember is if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Kickstarter you should. It’s a very unique project, and looks to be a lot of fun. Although, Matt can describe it better than I ever could.

Dave: Matt thank you again for meeting with me. I must say people really enjoyed the last interview, and I thought while the Kickstarter was still going we could talk a bit more about Ryuutama.

Matt: Great! We have less than 1 week left and there are still some things to come.

Dave: First I want to say at the time of this interview the Ryuutama Kickstarter is doing more than incredible. 1,519 people have pledged $74,359, and there is still roughly a week to go. Can you tell us what it is like to see your project become successful so quickly, and then continue to grow at such an impressive rate?

Matt: Well, the amount of interest and the high energy level of the fans is humbling. I’m really happy that I can be a part of this project! I know Okada-sensei has put a lot of heart into this game, and I think that’s why it’s doing as well as it is.

Dave: On the Kickstarter page, and in other places you guys have talked a lot about what people can expect from the rules, setting, tone, and general world of Ryuutama. However, I was wondering if you could share with us some of the experiences you’ve had in the game. Although, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I was wondering if you could share with us your role playing experience leading up to Ryuutama?

Matt: I was sort of a late bloomer, I guess. I talk about this in one of our more recent podcast episodes, but I didn’t start playing RPGs of the tabletop variety until a year after I graduated college. I played for a year in LA then moved to Japan, where, long story short, I fell in love with JRPGs. I have run and participated in lots of different games, from Fiasco to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, from Trail of Cthulhu to Iron Kingdoms. Someday, I will fulfill my dream of writing the perfect Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure RPG. Until that day, I cannot die.

Dave: As you know with RPGs sometimes the first experience you have with one is as a player who hasn’t even read the rules. What was your understanding of the game the first time you played it? What role did you play? What was it like filling that role the first time you played? What unexpected things happened?

Matt: The first time I saw the book, my Japanese wasn’t that great. I flipped through it at a Yellow Submarine and looked at all the pretty pictures and imagined something pretty much exactly like the game actually is. The art really adds a lot to the book’s tone. The first time I played, it was with my Japanese group and I was a plucky konekogoblin (tiny cat-goblin). I think I was a hunter/attack type, because I launched myself at enemies first chance I got. Of course, since konekogoblins start with low strength scores, it didn’t amount to much! I think somehow my character ended up learning that not everything had to be solved using violence…

Dave: That sounds really adorably violent. (Is that a thing?) Anyway, moving on, was there a moment where you said “a-ha” this game gives me something I haven’t seen before in other games? What was that like?

Matt: Yeah, it was probably the traveling stuff. It was actually exciting! My little guy had stubby little paws and tended to get himself in trouble just by walking. One bad day of travel and you didn’t want to get caught in anything dangerous!

Dave: It sounds like konekogolbins might be an advanced class? Or would you recommend them to beginners? Either way do you have any additional advice for future kitten goblins?

Matt: No, they’re not an advanced class, just another optional race for character creation. I probably wouldn’t recommend them to beginners (there are certain classes listed as such in the book) but I wouldn’t tell a beginner that they couldn’t play one. I think that if you’re a cat person like me, you probably won’t need much advice to play a konekogoblin!

Dave: Just about every RPG campaign of any length has one of those moments where things go off the rails. Can you tell us about one of those in Ryuutama?

Matt: Hah! Well, in the campaign that you’re in now, Dave, it has jumped off the rails several times. First may have been when the gob-roach man ended up summoning a horde of gob-roaches to destroy the steampunk town you guys crash landed at. But then we got it back on the rails you guys killed the gobroach queen. And then there was the part where someone bought a strange idol from a creepy old dude at the port town… (Editor note: The play session with the idol was not recorded.)

Dave: Things did go a bit off the rails with the gobroaches didn’t they? At the same time it made for an exciting adventure. To anyone who has had a chance to watch your Youtube series it’s clear you know how to roll with the punches as a GM. However, I’ve noticed in the Kickstarter comments that some people backing this are new to RPGs. Any advice for them when things go off the rails? I’m sure the first time a player does something they don’t expect they’ll panic.

Matt: As any GM will tell you, a GM’s plans very rarely survive contact with the players. A new GM should keep in mind that they can’t plan for all eventualities, so they should be flexible. Remember that each session you run is a dialogue between the GM and the players and ultimately the players will have as much input as the GM as to where the story goes. The skill of improvisation will come with practice and nobody is expecting you to get it right the first time. Just relax and have fun!

Dave: So you’re saying that it happens all of the time. Ryuutama offers a little more player agency for world building than most RPGs. I imagine some pretty interesting ideas can come up when this happens. What are some of the more interesting/bizarre traits you’ve seen appear in the world building?

Matt: In our current campaign, we decided that the world is sort of a hollow-earth sort of deal. I thought that was kind of cool although it was totally off the cuff. I can’t think of anything TOO crazy off the top of my head–Oh wait! Sharktopus gang leaders! (The Sharktopuses are also in the not recorded session.)

Dave: What are some of the world building traits that were just so awesome they had to be rejected for the campaign?

Matt: We left it all in, I think! It’s a glorious wonderful mess!

Dave: I think there is an important statement in that about the nature of running an RPG. Whenever possible say yes, or at least “no and”, or “no but”. Speaking of RPG tips I’ve noticed some of your backers have picked Ryuutama as their first RPG. In response to that a little while back you posted a video explaining how to make a character in Ryuutama. You also offer some tips for making characters. I was wondering if you’d be able to share some additional advice to new, and experienced, gamers a like on team world building?

Matt: Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions, but also don’t be afraid to say when you don’t like someone elses’ suggestions there should be room for compromise. However, if someone has something that they strongly object to, the group obviously shouldn’t include it. I think next time I’m going to try assigning each player an aspect of the town and have them come up with something interesting, then compiling it all and see what happens!

Dave: That sounds like an awesome idea. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.

Dave: Some RPGs almost require that every player fills out a “role” that is every group needs a healer, a tank, a damage dealer, a “skill monkey”, etc. Does Ryuutama have roles that need filling in a similar way? If so what should players do to make sure their group has the best chance in the wilds? What if they are down a man? How can the GM help make sure they still have an interesting story told?

Matt: There are no “roles” as in Dungeons and Dragons 4e, but there are certainly advantages of having characters with certain abilities around. Hunters, for example, can help keep the group fed while Healers keep the group healthy. The three different Types also have ways of making a party balanced. For example, a group without a healer would do just fine if one of the party members had healing magic. That being said, there is no hard and fast rule as to what classes or types need to be present. A campaign of only merchant PCs could be fun! The GM might have to be careful what sort of obstacles or conflicts appear in the scenarios, however.

Dave: Will the game come with some predefined adventures for players? If so what sort of adventures can players expect from the books? What sort of tools does it include to help build adventures?

Matt: Absolutely, there will be some example scenarios in the book. There’s already a published scenario that you can grab off my blog or from the G+ community. There is also a section in the book with instructions and worksheets for those who might need guidance for creating their own scenarios. I hope that players can share what they’ve created on the G+ community for others to use, as well!

Dave: I can’t wait to try creating my own scenario. As you’ve noticed the merchant really speaks to me. I might make something about trade routes, and trade guilds. That could be a lot of fun. Still, I wanted to thank you again for sharing more about Ryuutama. I know there are a lot of people who can’t wait to play it for the first time.

Ryuutama – Japan’s take on tabletop RPGs

Here’s a quick quiz for you? What reached its Kickstarter goal in roughly 3 hours, and in the few days more than quadrupled said goal? The correct answer comes in essay form, but I’ll leave that essay to the experts. Instead, I’ll give the short answer. It’s Ryuutama ( a recently translated Japanese tabletop RPG (JRPG) that’s probably unlike any RPG you’ve ever played, or possibly heard of.

So what is it about Ryuutama that has Kickstarter all-a-flutter? Again, essay answer (see below), but the short is answer Kotodama Heavy Industries, the translation team behind the English release, has already shown they do incredible work with their previously successful project Tenra Bansho Zero.

So that essay I promised you? Well recently I was fortunate enough to have a chance to talk with the team behind Ryuutama–Matt Sanchez and Andy Kitkowski–so it comes in the form of an interview:

David: Matt, Andy thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Matt: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you, Dave!

David: Just recently, you’ve both started a new Kickstarter for a Japanese pen and paper RPG called Ryuutama. I’m going to assume everyone reading this knows what a pen and paper RPG is, but I’m guessing most people aren’t familiar with Japanese RPGs (JRPG) and how they might be different from American classics like D&D. Can you describe what an American player who hasn’t seen a JRPG might notice when he first sits down to play one?

Matt: Well, other than the obvious difference in language, I think the first thing that one might notice is probably the art. Just as western RPG books are filled with “realistically” styled art, most JRPGs are filled with the manga inspired art you might expect. Lots of JRPG books have slip covers over the cover, too, with a character sheet on the inside for easy copying. Depending on the publisher, a large portion of the book might be a replay, too. (Editor’s note: A replay is a script of an actual game session to give the players a sense of how the game is played.)

Andy: As Matt says, the art is probably the first giveaway. But the other common thing, especially with recent publications, is the size: Many recent book offerings are in “bunko” size format, which is the size of traditional Japanese novels. They are about one thumb-width thick, printed on fine, soft paper, and are about the size of your hand. Much smaller than normal paperback novels in the US. Many are not the “8.5×11” or “A4-Sized” full-color huge books we come to expect in the US.

David: Speaking of differences, the actual JRPG rules are known to have a few differences as well. What sort of things would an American gamer find for the first time in a JRPG manual?

Matt: While it’s not a good idea to generalize, you could say that old school charts show up in a lot of games. There are often very explicit rules for scenario creation and enforcing a three act structure. Most of these games are meant to be played either as a one shot or a series of one shots in a 4-6 hour slot.

Andy: The charts that Matt alludes to are there, and they’re usually there not for determining the impact of bullets or the bounce of grenades, but to randomize your character’s potential backgrounds, connections, feelings towards major NPCs, or backstory elements. They are often on a “Roll or Choose” system, which means you roll on a chart for inspiration: If it sticks, you have a cool new story element for your character. But if it’s totally alien for your character’s concept, you simply pick another. Seems weak since you’re not forced to pick the result, but in practice this system works extremely well.

Beyond that, it’s hard to generalize, as Matt said. One thing they all have in common is that, while they might have conceptually unique settings or rules, they very much stick to a traditional “there is always a GM” playstyle. There aren’t that many experiments with GM-less or distributed authority. Instead, true to Japanese innovation, they stay “thinking inside the box”, but completely change all the concepts within that box: Improving, streamlining, innovating.

David: Now that we have a sense of what a JRPG is lets talk about Ryuutama. I think the first, and most obvious question is, what the crisp does Ryuutama mean?

Matt: It translates to “Dragon Egg”, but it doesn’t quite slip off the tongue as well.

Andy: Indeed. Ryuutama just flows so much better than “Dragon’s Egg”. Even the French edition kept the “Ryuutama” name!

Dave: I see what you’re saying, and I’d say it’s a good sign that it’s getting multiple international releases. Still, with a name like that I am guessing this will have more than a few things in common with D&D?

Matt: Well, in that it is medieval fantasy, of a sort, I suppose. But the focus is on the natural world, on exploration, and on normal townspeople, not murderous bands of ruffians. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are dragons, but they’re not really there to fight anyone.

Andy: Yeah, it’s interesting: While there is combat, and things like “total party kills” can happen (and in my case, where I played with the author, we had five 1st level heroes that were almost all killed by two 4th level Giant Bees!), the focus is clearly on travel and meeting people. You get about 1/10th the experience for defeating powerful enemies as you do for overcoming challenging terrains and weather conditions.

David: What kind of gamer would enjoy Ryuutama? And what about the game may appeal to them?

Matt: I think this game would appeal to those who are interested in RPGs but are not drawn to the violent aspect of them. It’s a gateway game for those who are normally sort of leery, too, I think. My wife, for example, has no interest in playing D&D but she played Ryuutama and would like to play again. It has that “feel good/honobono” aspect to it that the Studio Ghibli films do.

Andy: If you want to play a game about helping people with people-problems, and keep a bit of wonder in your heart, and can deal with things in your fantasy world like “Cat-Goblins with Teacups on their Heads” and spells like “Summon a Cubic Meter of Dried Leaves”, then you are the audience for this game.

I mean, it’s essentially a game about all those NPCs you normally come across in a village when you play the Hero of some Japanese console game: The baker, the minstrel, the healer who heals your party, some farmer wandering in a circle, the guy who sells you swords and armor; those are the characters you choose from. You aren’t the heroes and demon-slayers, instead you’re basically Normal Everyday Fantasy People just trying to stay alive on this journey.

David: Cat-Goblins! Incredible. Alright, so someone asked me just yesterday if it was meant to be a solo campaign kind of game? I get the impression it would play very well with just a GM and a single player. Is that correct? What’s the recommended number of players?

Matt: It’s certainly possible, and I think that could be an interesting campaign that could go a lot of ways. But it could get rough. The more people you have in your party, the easier the survival aspects of the game are going to be.

Andy: Yeah, I’ve played it a lot, and indeed the sweet spot is one GM and 3-5 players. More than 6 is likely too much. Games with 1-2 players are absolutely possible, but they will be more intimate, and the GM will have to plan encounters with utmost care: One traveling Magic-Using Healer is not going to be able to face the same challenges (in travel or combat) as a group with Technical and Attack type characters.

David: Rumor has it (at this point confirmed in the Kickstarter description) that it’s not unlike Oregon Trail. Will players suddenly die of terrible diseases? In what ways is it like Oregon Trail? I can imagine these similarities will only help the fan base for the game to grow?

Matt: There are no terrible diseases unless the black Ryuujin unleashes one… (hey that sounds like a good scenario!) but it is just as easy to die from passing over rough terrain as it is in combat. If you are not prepared, you will get lost and you will starve or fall to the elements. Luckily getting prepared is fun and there are some options as to how you can go about shopping. For people who would rather just jump into the traveling aspect, there are “picnic rules,” where the players each receive a predetermined set of items.

David: I like the idea of role playing shopping, but I can see how it might not work for everyone. Still, what I’m hearing does make me think of Oregon Trail.

Andy: Actually, Yes! I actually made up that comparison a while back, calling it “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail” (ala the Oregon Trail video game; in fact, I’m making sure to add a Grandfather Clock to the starting equipment list in the English Version as a shout-out!). To which people immediately ask, “Can you die of dysentery?”

The answer to that is, “Yep!” You could fail/fumble in a travel roll which reduces your hit points down to 25% of their total. What does that mean? Did you twist your ankle? Did you get heatstroke? Did you drink some bad water? If you think the latter is appropriate, the GM might say, “Okay, you are now infected with a level 6 Sickness”, which makes you weaker at everything, and vulnerable to other damage. You have to rest/heal and maybe the next day you’ll get over that sickness. But yeah, in a way you can “Die of Dysentery” (or at least be critically weakened by it).

Though the actual physical effects of Dysentery, like Giardia or parasite infections, aren’t really “honobono” when you go into their gruesome “bowel-oriented” details, so I’d just leave it at “your stomach hurts”.

David: That’s great, all of the pieces are in play to make it as much like Oregon Trail as you like. Now I have to say there are a lot of JRPGs you could have translated. Why did you choose Ryuutama? (Also why not Shinobigami? Seriously. Like it’s the best game ever.)

Matt: Andy and I were talking about a game we could do while working on Shinobigami (which is our next project) and this game really stuck out to me.

Andy: There was a certain order to things. First Maid, to understand how the translation and publishing process works. I learned a lot from that. Then Tenra Bansho Zero, my dream project of some seven years. Then Ryuutama, and Shinobigami. We basically worked on them in the order in which we approached those companies. Each game, we get a little better at doing this, make better connections, and get closer to the wonderful artists responsible for these works.

I too can’t wait to bring Shinobigami to a wider audience. That will happen once we have Ryuutama to their backers!

David: Ryuutama has a unique mechanic involving a dragon person. Is this sort of thing common in a JRPG? Or is it pretty unique to Ryuutama? Can you describe what a player might expect from the dragon person, and the role he/she plays in the game?

Matt: I haven’t seen any other game, western or Japanese, that has a GM character like the Ryuujin. (Editor’s note: Ryuu = dragon, jin = person) They have their own character sheet and stats, but the stats are different than the PCs. Their abilities are used to affect the story, not perform actions. The Ryuujin is allowed to journey and interact with the party but cannot take center stage like GMPCs (Editor’s note: Game Master Player Characters are fully functioning PCs, often used to fill roles, and have the full agency of a normal PC.) in other games might.

Andy: Also, to add to Matt, it’s brilliant that the GM character also gets XP, but in a totally different way from the characters: They gain XP solely by the GM running sessions/scenarios for players. One scenario is One XP, and most level gains only require 1-3 or so XP.

The more levels the Ryuujin gains, the more effects they can do to help the party members: As a GM, they provide adversity for the party, but as the secretive Ryuujin, always off screen, they are there to help the party succeed with abilities like “turn a PC’s failed roll into a success”. They can only do these abilities a very few times a session though, they can’t pull them out of every jam.

David: Kind of reminds me of the old D&D cartoon with the dungeon master character except a lot cooler. By now it’s safe to say combat is not a huge focus in the game. However, I imagine it will still come up. What will combat look like in a Ryuutama game?

Matt: Combat is simplified and abstracted. There are 4 areas: enemy and friendly sides and within those are front and back areas. Players roll initiative using their stats, and that becomes their defense value as well. One of the cool things about combat is that before it begins, everyone comes up with 5 objects in and around the combat area in the fiction, and they can interact with those objects for bonuses.

Andy: Yeah, when you see the grid, it looks like an old console RPG, clearly inspired by Dragon Quest or the like: Simple, straightforward, and fun. But very much driven by the die rolls: If you get cold dice and no one in your party rolls well at all, it can be a very one-sided fight!

David: Still, it sounds incredible! I’ve played my fair share of maps and minis RPGs, and there is nothing wrong with it, but this sounds like a breath of fresh air to say the least.

Matt: That could be because you always lose at maps and minis games.

David: My reputation precedes me. OK, I got three questions I always ask every time I look at a new RPG. What’s the setting? What does the character sheet look like? What are the core mechanics, and how are they unique from what I’ve seen in the past? This always brings me to my forth question, what dice are used? (Author’s note: More recently I’ve started to ask what are the randomizing elements?)

Matt: The book has rules for coming up with the entire world together as a group. If that isn’t to your taste, the GM can handle it all themselves. But it is assumed that the world is a low magic medieval fantasy.

We have sample character sheets for both PCs and Ryuujin on our site that you can check out.

And to answer your third and fourth questions, stats are not numbers, but dice sizes, similar to Savage Worlds. So, for example, a character might have d8 strength and d4 dexterity. Skill checks are performed by rolling two stats at once, with a fumble occurring at double 1s and a critical occurring if both dice rolled their maximum value or if both dice rolled a 6. Rolling a fumble nets you a Fumble Point, which can be traded in later for a bonus to a roll!

David: This game seems full of inventive, and unique mechanics. That combined with an interesting take on the fantasy world. It hits both of my weak spots. You can definitely be assured I’ll be backing this Kickstarter.