Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kickstarters That Make Me Go "HUH?" - Dark Realms RPG 1 Million Book Give-Away

I've stumbled across a handful of Kickstarters over the last year that have left me scratching my head. Some were poorly done, some poorly presented, some made no sense, some aimed to high - but they all made me look closer to try and figure out what the real faults were. This will, I suspect, become a fairly (ir)regular feature at the Tavern.

This time I'm going to take a look at Dark Realms RPG 1 Million Book Give-Away. Right away you can tell it's ambitious. Match that to the $45,000 goal for a company's initial Kickstarter, let alone in the RPG niche, and it raises some questions.

They answer the first question pretty well - how the hell are they going to give away a million of anything with $45k dollars? They aren't - they are aiming at 250K in the first round of funding, and publishing the free RPGs on newspaper quality paper. Interesting.

The second question is an obvious one too - what the heck is Dark Realms, and why should it be able to gain $45k in pledges and 250k RPGs distributed. This there is no easy answer. Apparently Guild of Blades (the publisher) has been around since 1994, I've just never heard of anything they've put out, let alone the game they are trying to raise $45k for.

How is the game? You can grab the PDF for free, but the link on the Kickstarter page is far from helpful, as it send you to their web store to buy it in print (direct link to download Dark realms here). Yeah, I know that's not an answer - so maybe this will help:

As a function of the Dark Realms game system, each core attribute a character has is also assigned an “Adjustment Value”. The Adjustment Value is used to determine certain combat and mental capabilities as well as potential bonuses the character might receive. They “adjust” a good number of features about the character. 
The adjustment value will be determined by the current rating of the Core Attribute and is found by referencing the following table (See Below). Attribute Adjustments typically apply in one of two ways (though they can apply in others). The first is that the Attribute Adjustment rating is a direct bonus to or the starting foundation to some other game number. For instance, a character’s Strength Adjustment is a bonus to a player’s “Attack Level”. The second is that the Attribute Adjustment is a random chance on a D6 for a bonus of some sort. For instance, whenever you spend Experience Points to buy a Hit Point to add to the character’s maximum Hit Points, the character’s Health Adjustment is a chance on 1D6 to get a second Hit Point added to their maximum for free. So yes, an Attribute Adjustment of 6 would thusly be an automatic bonus Hit Point. If a character’s Adjustment for the Attribute is higher than a 6, then they get the automatic point, and each point above 6 becomes a chance for a second bonus point. So a character with a Health of 20 would have a Health Adjustment of +7, so when the character would spend Experience to buy a new Hit Point, they would automatically get a 2nd Hit Point for free, then also have a 2 in 6 chance of getting a 3rd Hit point for free.

I hope you followed that. It left me with some more head scratching.

Why would I want to put a million copies of this game out there? I guess because it uses a singe D6 and has a simple resolution system. That's about the only simple part. Here's the rules on dual wielding:

Multi-Weapon Use Penalties:
Typically this is something few people can do and even few
people can do well; but there is nothing stopping one from
trying, even if it is often unwise. Without the Ambidexterity
skill, the following penalties apply when wielding more than
one weapon:
1) Both weapons being used must be single handed weapons.
2) The larger of the two weapons will be considered to be
held by the character’s dominant hand and be the “primary”
weapon. The other weapon will be the secondary one.
3) The character gets a -1 to Dodging. This is in addition to any
Dodge penalties that would apply from each weapon.
4) The character is -3 to Initiative with the primary weapon
and -6 to Initiative with the secondary weapon. This is in
addition to any Initiative penalties that would apply from
each weapon.
5) The character is -2 Attack Level with the primary weapon
and -4 to Attack Level with the secondary weapon 
6) Yes, if they have 3 or more arms, there can be multiple
“Secondary Weapons”.
7) The character receives no Weapon Mastery bonus they
would otherwise recieve with both of the weapons being
When a character has the Ambidexterity skill each point in this skill reduces one of the penalty points to each weapon otherwise given to Initiative and Attack Levels. Additionally, at Level 1 with Ambidexterity the character no longer receives the -1 Dodge penalty.
The character will still find it difficult to utilize their Weapon Masteries, but not impossible. With each weapon, the character will be able to use 1 level of their Weapon Mastery skill with that weapon for each level of Ambidexterity skill they have; Up to their maximum Weapon Mastery skill, of course.

This is not an introductory RPG that someone is going to pick up and run for their friends if they have no prior RPG experience despite what the publishers feel to be the case.

The publishers have a laudable, if unrealistic goal (it's been live for a few days, and currently has 4 backers for $138). This isn't the product that's going to make a $45k goal. $4.5k would be highly doubtful.  It is a curiosity none the less.


  1. Ha ha! I thought my "dual weapon usage" rules were messy. That's great! I wish 'em luck, but see it going anywhere, honestly.

  2. Dark Realms has always been a stinky fantasy heartbreaker....I had no idea they were aiming for an ambitious kickstarter! I look forward to more in-depth analysis of kicktarters gone wrong.

  3. I think the thing that annoys me most about that Kickstarter is the stupid attitude toward D&D (to be fair, it's one that is promoted by the Big Players in the RPG "industry") that you can only publish the newest, most bloated form of it; that the older editions, while they were cool intros, can't exist anymore in any form. It's like the good people at Guild of Blades had never heard of the OSR, Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry.

    Heck, they probably haven't.

  4. The only Guild of Blades product I have seen before is Button Wars. A game store in the mall used to have loads of them hanging on the wall.

  5. I can't shake the feeling I have about this. Two things:

    As I see it, as a backer, they expect that with our money funding the initial printing and our unpaid work in helping get the copies out there (they've asked backers to distribute 10 copies each) that this company can then sit back and smile and sell supplements off of their web site.

    That feeling is bolstered by the perplexing rules excerpt that Tenkar posted. That is supposed to be an *introduction* to role playing games, written because all the old versions of D&D were *too hard*?

    Whatever happened to:

    Role three six-sided dice. Put them in this order - Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Charisma.


    Now, you're at the door of ruined castle. It is slightly open and you see stairs leading down.

    What do you do?

  6. Guild of Blades is one of my FLGS's. They make a much better board game than RPG. While they support OSR works in their brick & mortar store, they seem to always have lofty goals regarding their own product. I love the store (as they carry tons of old TSR product) but this was somewhat absurd when I had heard about it in the store last month.


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