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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Centerstage Miniatures "Tome of Horrors" Kickstarter Hits High Horror, Complete with 3rd Party Takeover Attempt and PR Threats

I remember the Tome of Horrors Miniatures Kickstarter - the idea of getting a Flumph tempted me, that was all, but I never expected the entertainment value that this imploding Kickstarter would give the gaming public.

Last night, Centerstage Miniatures announced that their funding was gone. That's a big "oops."

But look, here's the savior! Mortal Arrow will save the project! So long as Frog God Games gives Mortal Arrow the licensing fees they were paid by Centerstage Miniatures to use FGGs IP (trademarked names and the use of FGG's artwork to base the mini's off off.) Mortal Arrow will then change names of any minis that are trademarked by FGG and remove any reference to Tome of Horrors and FGG if and when the minis are released. But yeah, still using FGG's art as the basis for the minis.

Did I mention the backers of the Kickstarter would be expect to pay for their minis - at a reduced price, of course.

Or that if Frog God Games didn't agree to all of this, they were threatened with the possibility of "a PR Black Eye" and even a lawsuit? When I negotiate with a third party, veiled threats are always my preference

With the kind permission of +Matt Finch , I'm reposting Matt's post from the Frog God Games blog.

I'm just quoting my comments to the Center Stage Miniatures Tome of Horrors Kickstarter, so people from ToH2 can see it, and so it's linkable. The comment I refer to, from Mortal Arrow, is: "I'm glad to see that Matt Finch has commented. Maybe he should describe his role at Frog God. And more importantly, he should let us know if Frog God has received funds that were raised through this KickStarter. And if so, how much?"

My posts (2), as an answer, are these:

Post 1:

In response to Mortal Arrow's question, I'm part owner of FGG. I'm going to post the operative terms of out contract with Solarz, and also the full text of a letter we got from Mortal Arrow. However, first I want to reproduce the exact paragraph where we all decided there was no way we would ever do business with Mortal Arrow (other than that he has less track reccord in the business than Matt Solarz):

"Third, I originally asked Bill if he was willing to return some or all the licensing fee already received from the ToH1 project. I believe there is still a potential that this will give Frog God a PR “black eye” and open them up to be drawn into a lawsuit, should it occur. This would be the cleanest way to wash your hands of these projects. These funds would also be applied to fulfilling miniatures and be the best way for Frog God to exit with the maximum amount of goodwill."

Mike is now trying to do exactly what he threatened in his letter, to create the "PR black eye." He's proving out exactly our concerns about his character.

In terms of our deal with Matt Solarz, we got paid our licensing fee on the first Kickstarter, which was 15% of gross receipts. Without checking with Bill for the exact amount that must have been about $14K since I think it was net of the Kickstarter fees. We got stiffed on the second Kickstarter like everyone else, although Matt Solarz did call us, and we did agree that if the project depended on it we would wait. Let me see if I can paste the whole of Mortal Arrow's letter (the "Matt" it's addressed to is me, not Matt Solarz):

"Dear Matt and Bill,

Sorry for the confusion, though Skeeter Green’s comment seem to have announced something similar.

As stated below, for me to sign off on any agreement I require that Frog God confirms that Mortal Arrow LLC can ship miniatures to Backers of these projects without interference from Frog God games. This is first and foremost, as it is a deal killer for my talks with Matt and CSM.

Second, Bill mentioned forgiving the $2K+ owed to Frog God by CSM on the ToH2 project. I’d like to know if this offer still stands. These funds would be applied to fulfilling miniatures, and I would promote the generosity of Frog God to the Backers.

Third, I originally asked Bill if he was willing to return some or all the licensing fee already received from the ToH1 project. I believe there is still a potential that this will give Frog God a PR “black eye” and open them up to be drawn into a lawsuit, should it occur. This would be the cleanest way to wash your hands of these projects. These funds would also be applied to fulfilling miniatures and be the best way for Frog God to exit with the maximum amount of goodwill.

If all three are done, then the plan is to remove all reference to the Tome of Horrors and rename any of the miniatures under its copyright domain (e.g. Tsathar and Inphidian). This will clearly separate Frog God’s business from this debacle.

If there is intent for the Mortal Arrow LLC (the company I’ve created to take on these miniature lines) and Frog God to collaborate in the future, then we can negotiate this separately, once the dust has settled.

Please let me know your thoughts on this proposal. I’d be happy to discuss this an alternate thoughts.


Mortal Arrow seems to think that (a) people believed we weren't charging a license fee and that (b) we'd be ashamed of charging a license fee. Of course we charged a fee, we got paid on the first one, and we didn't get paid on the second. We don't pay hush money on things we're not ashamed of or trying to hide, and we don't do business with people who try to fund their startups with this sort of behavior. We're perfectly willing to license a reputable company with experience. We will not under any circumstances work with Mortal Arrow.

Here is the contract (this is from my MSWord file, but I think it's the signed version):
Intellectual Property License Agreement
This agreement (the “Agreement”) is made and entered into as of April 30, 2013 between Frog God Games (“FGG”), with offices at 5045 Minder Rd., Poulsbo, WA 98370 and Matthew Solarz (“CSM”), with offices at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
NOW THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the covenants, agreements and representations set forth below, and for other good and valuable consideration, the parties hereto agree as follows:
1. Design License: FGG hereby licenses certain intellectual property to CSM for a period of 1 (one) year. The intellectual property licensed hereunder (the “Design Licensed Material”) comprises the right to design miniature figures based upon but not identical to the visual representations and text descriptions of characters and monsters in the Frog God Games publication Tome of Horrors Complete. This period may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties.

2. Trademark License: FGG hereby licenses certain intellectual property to CSM for a period of five (5) year (the “Trademark License Period”). The intellectual property licensed hereunder (the “Trademark License”) comprises the non-exclusive right of CSM to advertise the miniatures designed under Section 1 and any pre-existing miniatures designated by CSM at the execution date of this Agreement as “Official Tome of Horrors” miniatures, for the duration of the Trademark License Period. This period may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties.

3. Payment for Design License: CSM shall pay FGG a license fee of 15% of gross sales of miniatures that are subject to the Trademark License, for the duration of the Trademark License as it may be extended. The fee shall be accounted quarterly, and paid within 45 days of the end of the accounting quarter.

4. FGG Option to Examine: Upon written request, FGG shall have the right to examine or cause to be examined through certified public accountants the books of account of CSM insofar as such books of account shall relate to the receipt of funds by CSM from the sale of miniatures that are subject to this Agreement. If such examination shall reveal errors of accounting (other than those arising from an interpretation of this agreement) amounting to a sum in excess of $250 to FGG's disadvantage, the costs of such examination shall be borne by CSM.

5. Governing Law: This Agreement, including all matters relating to the validity, construction, performance, and enforcement thereof, shall be governed by the laws of the State of Washington.

Post 2:

Okay, the last bit of the contract did get chopped off, but it's the boilerplate. I won't fill up peoples' screens with it.

Suffice to say, you can see from Mortal Arrow's letter why we won't work with him, and you can see from the contract that we don't even have the audit right to see what happened to the money. We can only trace receipts.

Our only role was letting Matt Solarz use the monsters and pay us a percentage of the sales, and we don't have any leverage other than that. Our only ability here is that we don't have to allow assignment of this contract. We have some ability to make sure that if our name is going to be used on an attempt to fix this disaster, that the white knight is actually a white knight. We determined that Mortal Arrow would likely, based on correspondence and lack of track record, not be a good fit. Matt Solarz apparently made the same determination, or something like it, independently. Mortal Arrow has, in his earlier response on this thread, absolutely confirmed our suspicions about what he meant in his "you'll get a PR black eye" paragraph.

Talk about a clusterfuck.


  1. The message I'm getting from all this is, "Backers, grab your ankles and prepare to accept a boarding party."

    Very glad I didn't back this.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. And this has to with the situation described in this post. . .how?

      Nice random link bait there, friend.

    2. Do as you please. Still seeing you lose yourself in idiotic-blabbing about meaningless kickstarter saddened me. For someone claiming OSR you have long lost the joy and personality for it. In case you didn't notice, non of the links I mentioned ever benefitted me, nor did they link to my sites. Enjoy the time you waste on foolish kickstarters then. Bye.

    3. Do you have any understanding on how conversations work?

      There is a topic - we talk about the topic for a bit, wander off topic maybe and then move on.

      We DON'T post random blog post links from 2007.

      If the topic doesn't interest you, don't comment. Certainly don't comment if your only intention is to derail. It's not polite.

      I am extremely soft handed in my moderation of the comments here at The Tavern. Aside from spam, yours may be the first comment I've deleted this year.

      It's nothing personal, but there are rules that are generally accepted for commenting on blogs and forums. Some have more rules, some less. I have very few. Random, off topic links to other site are verboten.

  3. Center Stage has charlie foxtrotted three kickstarters. They had a Demons & Devils KS, then two TOH ones.

    I remember the Demons & Devils one, and thought "way to close to the art and WoTC will get involved." With the TOH KS, I thought "These guys still have a massive KS with Demons . . . was that a red flag? Why yes, yes it was . . . . ."

  4. CSM fluster-clucked it's original launch long before Kickstarter became an option, IIRC.

    I had no idea all this was going on. Wow. o.O

  5. Kickstarter is an amazing thing really, lots of cool ideas, but business acumen is often sorely lacking. Glad I didn't back these two. So far I have only backed 1 dud kickstarter, I consider this record excellent, but it still hurts when i think of the 120 bucks I blew on people of dubious moral stature....

    1. By 'dubious moral stature' are you referring to halfling hookers?

    2. Its gonna take me a while to come up with a witty response to that one, after I clean the coffee off my screen.....

    3. Years ago our party was converging (most of the PCs had never met before) on our new employer's location in this city, and were 'running the gauntlet', meeting 'representative NPCs' so we could get a feel for the city.

      One of the PCs was a priest lacking worldly experience, played by a fairly bashful guy... so of course this is the one the street prostitute made a pass at.

      "See these robes?"
      "Mmm-hmm, and I bet there's a lot under them."
      "They mean I'm a priest!"
      "... I do have an altar boy special, but it costs extra."

      I was playing a Halfling and decided to get him off the hook. I tugged on her skirt.

      "Excuse me, miss. Half price for half height?"

      I've never seen Ed, our DM, dumbfounded and speechless before. It was great.

      So, not _all_ halflings are sexless Englishmen, per Tolkien's works. In fact, the reason my (paladin) cousin and I were in this city was to get him out of the Moot after he started sermonizing about the immoral behavior of the orgy he stumbled on in the orchard...

  6. It's like KS just makes people crazy ... so glad I've never gone in for one of these things. Well I do kind of rue not being able to go in on the Reaper "Bones" KS sometimes.
    Looks like Frog Gods came out ahead anyway...

  7. I unfortunately backed this. Consider me happy to be part of any class action suit that forms over this. Maybe I'll try to play nice and just request a full refund on their site first.

  8. Just officially requested a refund on their Kick starter page. Will post their response (if any) here.