Battlebards – The Center of EPIC Tabletop Audio in Gaming

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We at 3-sided-die had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of the guys from Battlebards and discuss their Tabletop Audio campaign, which we think you are ALL going to love.  They are currently hosting a kickstarter and I implore you to check it out.  You WON’T be disappointed.  So let’s get started…

Jinx:  Why don’t you guys tell me all about Battlebards…who you are, how you came together and what you’re all about.

BB (Battlebards):  Alright, let’s dive right on in!  Battlebards is gearing up to be the center of audio in gaming, with a MASSIVE library of gaming music, sound effects, soundscapes, monsterscapes, fantasy languages, and NPC voice-overs.  It’s not just about quantity, quality is paramount.  Each track or pack of SFX takes about 50 hours of work to make sure we’re offering pieces with a ton of detail and specific for use in games.  Audio is half of the formula, without the tools to bring that audio closer to the GM, even the best music in the world will fall flat.  Battlebards will feature a customizable soundboard to allow GM’s to quickly find and organize all of the audio they need for the next gaming session; no more multiple media players, buffering wait times, etc.  Throw the mixer in there and now you have the means to easily mix not only Battlebards audio together but even throw your own audio ‘into the mix’ as it were.  Without needing to be a practicing sound engineer, you’ll be able say, sprinkle spell effects along with an intense battle track featuring a rampaging demon, layer multiple fireball blasts over the sounds of a massive marching army to showcase an epic battleground, whatever the scene calls for.  Accessible completely through a browser, you’ll be able to take all of this audio and mixes everywhere, even if you don’t have access to internet thanks to an offline mode!

Whew, that’s pretty long-winded for a Battlebards overview. ☺  So who are we?  Well, simply put, a bunch of passionate gamers.  Each of us has decades of experience in PC games, console games, causal games, board games, and so on.  Tabletop gaming is where our passion burns the brightest with over 50 years of cumulative experience in the core team.  And it’s gaming that led us all to become friends.  Mike met Alex when he joined Alex’s D&D gaming group in Orange County and Kyn met Alex when they were in grad school, bonding over, what else, gaming.

We’re all about evolving the tabletop gaming experience through the introduction of incredible, professionally made audio; we share that drive to make the experience more immersive.  It’s all about the collective storytelling experience and just like you would not want to watch the Star Wars opening crawl without John Williams famous score, you shouldn’t have to explore the hidden depths of the Underdark without the perfect ambiance!

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Jinx:  Your kickstarter is boasting over 500 audio tracks by professional composers and voice talent…that sounds EPIC.  You also have some of the OCGG founders of a recently funded KS for Realmsound 2.0 working with you.  How do these tie together?

BB:  EPIC INDEED!  We can’t wait!!

Our first Kickstarter, the Realmsound Project, was an effort by a bunch of friends who simply wanted to see if others out there wanted to band together to bring mind blowing audio to gaming and develop tools to actually make that audio easy to use.  With the overwhelming success of that project, we found out that, whoa, there are LOTS of GM’s out there that love what we’re doing.

During Realmsound, it was brutal for us to only get to make ONE choice for each need since so many auditions were absolutely outstanding.  Thus enter Battlebards.  We want to have our cake and eat it too by bringing in all of those auditions that made it through our insanely tough shortlisting process, let gamers choose which vision of a Druid’s Grove resonates most with them!  Let’s give GM’s options of different forest soundscapes to fit their campaign.  Battlebards is the engine to build this library, to bring seasoned pros to produce more content for games month after month.

Jinx:  What exactly is this kickstarter going to entail?  How is the web service going to work?

BB:  The Kickstarter will allow backers to get in on the ground floor participating in activities you’d expect from a service that wants to cater to gamers.  Deciding what tracks we’re going to offer, Alpha and Beta access to help shape the tools in development, and Kickstarter only rewards that will allow the download of exclusive tracks.

The web service will be subscription based, giving access to an ever growing list of audio as it’s released.  Created around a browser based platform, GM’s will essentially be able to have constant access to EVERYTHING wherever there’s an internet connection, whether through a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  Even for those playing in areas with no internet, we still have you covered.  GM’s will be able to synch audio to their laptops for offline mode, making sure that the audio you have prepped before a session is ready to go, even in the deepest basement or largest park!

Jinx:  I’m curious to know how you approached these professionals and why they were specifically chosen for this venture?

BB:  Competition.  Each and every track admitted to the Battlebards library has to fight to get in since we crowdsource everything.  There are artists that we commonly work with but it’s not because we hand them Gigs, they consistently earn it.  It’s this aspect to how we approach the building of our library that has led us to produce the best fantasy gaming audio in the world.

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Jinx:  What kind of stretch goals do you have planned?  Can you give us a little sneak peak of what’s to come?

BB:  OK, see how you’re getting us all worked up!  Whew!  So, we’re always going to be producing audio that’s ‘mainstream’ or would find its way into almost any game like weapon and spell sound effects, Dwarf inspired music tracks, etc.  Every now and again, we’ll produce tracks so unique to gaming, nothing even CLOSE exists anywhere.  In one of the close stretch goals, we’re going to explore the sounds one would hear in a Bardic College and a Monk Monastery.  Alex, our Audio Director, is bouncing off the walls with ideas for those creative briefs!

Jinx:  I know this will be a perfect fit for games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, etc, but what TTRPG’s do you and the OCGG group currently play and feel will get the most use out of the Battlebards web based service?  For example, are we talking only Fantasy/Medieval games that this service will support or do you have audio tracks available for sci-fi as well?

BB:  Excellent question!  We’re quite inclusive at OCGG when it comes to gaming systems.  Primarily, we play D&D 3.5 / Pathfinder and more and more we’re getting some 5E in there.  These are no brainers for this audio, being the inspiration for this venture.  Every now and again, we’ll get in a game of Shadowrun, Star Wars Edge of the Empire, and Paranoia, which is amazing!  The crazy thing is even apart from tabletop games, we’ll use our audio for board games and even card games like Magic: The Gathering just to spice things up.  There’s nothing like finishing off a player with a lightning bolt card coupled with the sound effect!

We will ABSOLUTELY offer other genres of audio and with Sci-fi, modern, and cyberpunk in our crosshairs.  However, before we start swimming in those pools, we want to make sure we’re offering the fantasy community an attractive enough offering to enjoy Battlebards.

Jinx:  I’d love to hear an example of a audio track mix you’ve created and used for an in game session.  Also, how did you manage it as a GM?  I know that I wouldn’t want to be fumbling through the laptop trying to find the clash of a sword on armor or a resounding thump of a club coming down on a players head, losing it’s value in the heat of the moment…so how user friendly is the mixer to use in real time?

​​BB:  As a GM using audio extensively for 15 years, I have to tell you that you can’t be more right about how quickly the energy falls off the table when the GM pauses the action to find a SFX or ambiance track.  Know what’s worse?  A darn Geico ad coming up in the middle of a dramatic scene when you have to use YouTube for some OST’s (Original Sound Tracks).  UGH!  The soundboard and mixer makes the audio more accessible, getting everything that you’re going to need right there on the screen.  As dice are rolling, as you’re narrating, as Orcs hit the floor, a keystroke, touch, or mouse click gets you what you need.  Think you might need 10, 20 different SFX on command?  OK, put them on your soundboard and you’re ready.  Heck, in a future version of the soundboard already in development, you won’t even need to look at your laptop to play audio but we’ll keep that as a teaser for now. ☺

We know talk is cheap, we need to show people how this is done so we’re producing a series of videos under the title, Audio in Gaming, where we show GM’s the various ways audio can be used at the table.  Two videos are in post right now but they’ll be up on YouTube as soon as possible.

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​​Jinx:  In our previous discussions, we talked more in depth about the​ soundboard and mixer.  Why don’t you tell us all about it, including its capabilities and estimated storage space.  I’m someone who really likes to plan ahead and would probably have at least 3-5 game sessions mixes readily available.

BB:  You and Alex have a lot in common, he’s the same way when it comes to planning gaming sessions.  You can create as many playlists as you want, containing whatever audio you want, there’s no limit.  You want to create playlists according to what audio you think you’ll need for a gaming session, great, call that playlist “Session 34”.  You should also create some playlists of audio you think you’ll need at times like “Weapon Effects” and “DIE PC’S DIE” which you can quickly go to when you need it.  That’s the beauty of the “Playlist Centered Soundboard Design” that we’re working on.

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t3bgzw-combine-spells       tigvby-crop-tracks---kyn

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Jinx:  Now I’ve been lucky enough to hear a sampling of this audio and it is FANTASTIC.  Here are a couple audio track examples for our readers:

First the Dwarven Temple Soundscape…

 

Next up…The Swamp Soundscape

 

Or how about the sound effects for the spells we all know and love, like Lightning bolt…

 

Maybe you’re looking to add the flavor of a dark, infernal language…

Jinx:  Regardless…I am SOLD.

I do have one concern however and would love to hear your thoughts on it, not only from the point of view of this kickstarter, but as a GM as well.  Whenever my group gets together, there is always a lot of catching up, banter, laughing, talking about movie/video game/general geek references and most of all, BS’ing.  What do you think is the best way to utilize your service and effectively set the mood without impacting the camaraderie, which is one of the main reasons we all get together?

BB:  Oh boy, I’ve seen more than one GM storm out of a room when the players just could not be reigned in, when the jokes and banter, which is a key reason for getting together, starts to wreck that 10 page session masterpiece the poor GM is trying to go through.  Audio is the key!!! Being able to manage your player’s emotional states is one of the biggest challenges for the guy running the show and no one likes the heavy handed GM that screams at players when the fart jokes come out during a dramatic scene.  You could not hope for a better way to dial in that energy than audio.  Just last week, my players and I were bouncing off the walls with too much pizza and beer in their systems when I really needed everything to settle down long enough to run through a heavy scene.  As soon as I started playing Elven Dirge and started off with my narrative, the change was immediate, as not only they realized what was about to happen but the music focused all that energy into a dramatic wavelength.  It was magic.

Jinx:  What sets you guys apart from other audio tools out there?  What do you have that others do not?

BB:  We’re not going to lie, there’s a TON of great audio out there.  What sets us apart is that our audio is SPECIFICALLY made with tabletop gaming in mind.  What that means is that each track includes a ton of research to make sure that if we say something is supposed to be say, a Dwarf Temple, the resulting tracks exudes what most gamers will agree is iconic to Dwarves.  Special attention is also taken to provide a balance of specificity and flexibility, giving gamers as wide an array of uses for each track without compromising its original premise, not an easy thing to do.  Then there are the tools.  As a GM with enough on my plate, I don’t want to have to learn how to mix tracks like a sound engineer when putting together stuff for my games, give it to me simple.  Everything is click and drag making even the mixer super straight forward to use.   The soundboard follows the same KISS principle, allowing GM’s to put together their audio lists any way that’s most convenient for them.  The soundboard brings together the advantages of allowing gamers to plan for all the audio a script calls for while making any amount of it also available for off-the-cuff use, all, on a single customizable platform.

Jinx:  Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us here at 3-sided-die, it was a pleasure talking with you guys!  What is the best way for your fans to get in touch with you?

BB:  We can’t thank you enough for this opportunity.  Fans can reach us any way they like via Twitter (@Battlebards) and Facebook.  We’re also all over the comments and updates on the Kickstarter itself.  Don’t be shy, contact us, reach out, we’re just gamers like everyone else.

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.

Otherworlds – A new RPG on the horizon

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So we were lucky enough to speak with Vincent Baker, the Lead Game Designer for Otherworlds, an upcoming Science Fiction Fantasy Tabletop RPG.  We decided an interview was the best format to dig deeper into the inspiration and detail of Otherworlds, so please, join me for the ride!

First, we wanted to get a little bit more history on Vincent, to make sure he was decent RPG material and wasn’t full of false realities and broken dreams. 

Jinx:  When did you first get into Tabletop RPG’s?

Vincent: My father raised me on games such as Final Fantasy and Magic: The Gathering, so naturally around the age of 13, I had gotten into tabletop RPG’s from a young age. My first character’s name was Ramza (named after the main protagonist of my favorite game- Final Fantasy: Tactics) and was a dual wielding ranger.

Jinx:  What games do you feel are comparable to Otherworlds in play-style or genre?  GURPS?  Shadowrun?  Most importantly, what sets your game apart from others in its genre?

Vincent:  As I stated before, I grew up playing D&D. I’ve also played others such as Shadowrun and Outbreak: Undead. As far as play-styles go, I’d have to say Savage Worlds is the most comparable, namely for its “exploding die” mechanic and its wide scope of settings.

However, I’ve found that Otherworlds has had a lower barrier to entry than any other tabletop role-playing game I’ve seen, while still not sacrificing depth. We have had a lot of people skeptical of giving Otherworlds a try because of how complicated other systems were to them, and to their surprise, they were able to easily understand and get right into playing! On the other side of the spectrum, more experienced players have credited Otherworlds as being the first system that they have played, that has allowed them to be as creative as they want to be without feeling limited.

The system is very much crafted from the ground up to really make the game feel like its own entity and as far as its genre goes, I truly believe there isn’t another game that captures this particular theme.

So to answer your last question, what sets the game apart from the others is that this game is a unique genre (Science Fantasy Adventure.) It has a unique resource management system, simple yet deep design, unique races and of course, limitless creation.

Jinx:  What made you decide to design your own game?

Vincent:  Ever since I can remember, I had been entranced by fantasy. When I was about eleven, I was inspired by the Ratchet & Clank series and played a game that I called, “The Mission Game.” I acted out as NPCs, gave missions and rewarded my friends with imaginary weaponry, armor and items for completing objectives. Little did I know that I was role-playing at the time and as I got into tabletop games, I realized there was no better way to recreate that fantasy experience than through gaming.

OK.  So it seems like Vincent is on the up and up.  We can continue this interview….for now.

Jinx:  What about the game are you most excited about? 

Vincent:  Aside from my sheer excitement of the world getting their hands on a unique, fun and what I believe to be- a great game. I’m most excited about what the future holds. I already have dozens of ideas for expansions that I’d love to dive into, it’s just a matter of where the fans want to explore next with me.

Jinx:  Can you give us a brief adventure you’ve run and the highlights for our readers?

Vincent: There’s so many, that it’s hard to choose, but I’ll go with the first that comes to mind:
About six months ago my friend Audrey played Otherworlds for the first time. She, along with the rest of the player characters, was tasked with finding the source of a distress call and had to discover what had happened. They were led to an inhabited moon, named Kholis, which appeared to be nothing but the desolate remains of what was once a flourishing city. On this moon, what they found was black-ooze, zombie-like creatures that had no hesitation in attacking the group. Audrey’s character, Cammy, tried her hardest to protect a scared NPC the group found earlier in the campaign.

Unfortunately, they had a player character named Verrick in their group, who’s a sociopathic reaper, who “accidentally” slayed the scared NPC in all of the commotion. Cammy angrily charged Verrick. He began stepping back as he swung his Bad Axe at her and missed, only to have his body thrown onto the wall, held by her tight grip. Unfortunately for him, Cammy was a skilled hardcore-fighter that punches first and asks questions later. She began punching Verrick, who couldn’t escape. The leader of the group tried splitting the two apart, but Audrey rolled a critical success, knocking their leader back. Angered, their leader turned into their Werewolf form (yes we were playtesting werewolves) and tried separating the two; again she critically succeeded. This happened repeatedly for a while until Verrick was almost beaten to death. Needless to say, Audrey really enjoyed her first game of Otherworlds and I believe a lot of the praise goes to the system. If it weren’t for the critical success mechanic and opposed checks, this would have never happened or have felt as unreal as it did in that very moment.

Jinx:  Sounds pretty badass.  I really like how the critical success mechanic can turn an encounter into something so much more, really bringing the story to a whole new level.

You mentioned in your video that Otherworlds was a mash up of Borderlands, Magic The Gathering and Final Fantasy.  I’m an avid fan of each and while I did notice weaponry that reminded me of the Borderlands universe (as shown below), I would love to hear about how and where you incorporated each of these genres into Otherworlds.

Otherworlds weaponry

Vincent: Otherworlds has weapons, items and gear inspired by many different games such as Ratchet & Clank, Halo, League of Legends and Borderlands. The overall tone of the game is also fairly similar, but with Otherworlds being a TRPG, we’re able to add depth in additional races, armor, items, skills and other things that Borderlands doesn’t have.

I believe most would agree with me that Magic The Gathering is a well-designed game. I’ve not only been playing it for a decade, but I’ve been playing scrupulous amounts of attention to their designs and how they have improved. A lot of their design principles are taken into account when designing Otherworlds. I simply love how they only have two stats (power and toughness) and yet still have over 20,000 cards and STILL have more design space. Otherworlds is built to have a lot of design space and to take up complexity where it’s important and to minimize it where it’s not. I believe that’s important for any game.

As for Final Fantasy, as mentioned above, my favorite game of all time is Final Fantasy: Tactics. I love how simple it is to play, yet how much strategy there is to the game to master. This is vital role I wanted in Otherworlds. I want players to have options when it comes to combat. Players can go the simpler route by just pointing and clicking with a big gun or swiping down their foes with a sword. But there are much more tactical approaches a player can take as well, such as determining whether it’s better to use your rifle that your enemy won’t be able to evade successfully, or to attack your enemy with a slightly weaker attack that will devastate them if they try defending it. Along with these decisions, Otherworlds has what I like to call a “checks and balances” approach to design. What this means is for every strength there is something to counter it. There is not one piece of gear that’s the best. It’s almost like a rock-paper-scissor-style combat, but instead of three variants, there are limitless variants.

Jinx:  I’m very curious about seeing this from a player’s perspective. What would you say is the learning curve for new players to pick up the system and make characters?

Vincent:  I feel like in comparison to other systems, Otherworlds is very straight forward and allows for easy character creation. Accessibility into the game is also simple for new players to join with more advanced players. The enemies and tasks during an Otherworlds campaign are balanced enough for even a beginner to contribute to the mission at hand.

Jinx:  I really liked the idea that two gunslingers could be completely different in the Otherworlds system.  Disregarding race, can you explain what customization options are available that allow for the differences in two members of a similar class?

Vincent:  Aside from race, characteristic traits, backgrounds and the destiny of the characters, two gunslingers could differ functionally based on what play style the player wants. For example, a player may love rolling dice and playing the odds. In that case, the player can acquire skills like “Bang! Bang! Bang!” and “Lady Luck,” which will weaken their overall attack power in favor of rolling more dice, for additional chances to gain critical successes. Additionally the player can use “Lady Luck” to build up Luck, in order for the player to re-roll their dice.

If rolling a lot of dice isn’t your thing, you can go for a sharpshooter variant of the Gunslinger, allowing you to gain increased damage and range. You can pick up additional skills such as “Shootout” and “Fan the Hammer” to further increase your damage and accuracy to make sure you always hit your targets.

Alternatively, you can go for more of a support Gunslinger, in which you can equip heavy armor and tank damage as you use skills such as “Bullet Rain” to take out multiple pesky enemies or use “Wanted” to curve your bullets to get enemies hiding behind cover. “Twist of Fate” could also be useful to reveal all of your concealed enemies for your teammates.

Additionally, equipment plays a huge role in how your character will play in combat and in Otherworlds there is no “best equipment.” It’s more like a puzzle and you can try and solve combat the way you want to. There is no right or wrong answers. Not only do you have the above options available to use as a Gunslinger, but you can also have a frost elemental weapon to freeze your enemies in place or at the very least slow them down. If you’re going for more damage, have a fire elemental weapon.

The best part however is you can mix and match any of the things I said above to how you see fit, as well as use the additional dozens of skills to further alter and get “combos,” that work well together. Ultimately however I wanted each class to have different playstyles for players to explore, because I for one don’t enjoy playing the same thing as everyone else.

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Jinx: Taking it one step further, I’m someone who really enjoys building my character.  What customizations and options can I expect that will allow me to really bring life to my character, to get it exactly how I envision him?

Vincent:  Otherworlds has twelve classes and ten species in the core rulebook. All of which cover a wide variety of options to choose from. Along with this, you can choose characteristic traits and your character’s Destiny, which can be anything as long as it’s a motive. These elements really build up the narration aspect of the game, so even if you’re playing a story-based campaign, it still feels like a personal player-based campaign as well.

Additionally there are proficiencies you can have your character specialize in. These cover anything from investigation, science, artistry, weapon crafting and more, which will allow your character to further fulfill a unique role in your play group.

Jinx:  Sounds great Vincent.  Now let’s look at it from a GM’s perspective.  Something I’m really interested in, is limitless creation.  I’d love to know as a GM, how easy is it to create a new monster or even a new race and class that functionally works in Otherworlds?

Vincent:  It takes some basic understanding of the game and looking at the other monsters, races, classes, etc. to see how they are built. But you can go as simple or as complicated as you want to. As for ease of creation, we’ve had a lot of players start creating after their first playthrough of Otherworlds.

Jinx:  Again, as a GM, how much of the er…other worlds in Otherworlds are mapped out, designed and detailed?

Vincent:  Currently there are twelve worlds listed in the Otherworlds Core Rulebook, each with their own themes and identity. They are detailed enough to understand the world, but obviously to illustrate an entire world for any game is difficult, if you multiply that by twelve, it becomes ludicrously difficult.

The answer to this is there are details given of each world, enough so, where you can feel confident in visiting them and knowing what they are about and what life is like on that planet.

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Jinx:  So I hear you recently attended a convention where you got to show off Otherworlds?

Vincent:  I had a blast attending Triad Anime Con. They had me as a guest and treated me very well throughout the convention. During the campaign sessions, (which I wish could have been longer) we had full games of ten people! It was a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.

Afterwards it made me extremely happy to hear people ask me what conventions I’d be at next so that they could play again. Currently I’m working out the details, as I plan on being a part of many more conventions. Getting to meet new people and enjoy a shared gaming experience is a feeling unlike any other and I seek to have more of that, moving forward.

Jinx:  So the rumor on the streets is that you’re going to have a kickstarter.  When are you expecting it to launch and what’s the price going to be for a physical product?  How about the .pdf?

Vincent: Depending on how the die rolls, I’m expecting to launch Otherworlds on May 1st. Physical copies will be a hardcover 8.5 x 11 fully colored book around 200 pages. As for the prices, I’m still negotiating with print companies, so I’m not able to give an answer at this moment. However, what I will say is you can expect a price reasonable to that of other tabletop RPG’s found on Kickstarter.

Jinx:  Do you have any stretch goals planned?  Any chance you can divulge the first one to entice some excitement in our readers?

Vincent:  Absolutely! Art is essential for this game and even though we have a good amount of it, I’d love to fully flesh out more of what the different worlds, weapons and characters look like to give the player’s more perspective of this new universe to explore. I feel like this is common for most RPG’s and as such, the first stretch goal will be to add more art to the core rulebook.

Jinx:  Sounds solid Vincent, thanks for having the interview here with us at 3-Sided-Die, we thoroughly enjoyed it.  For all your fans out there, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Vincent: Honestly, I love talking to others and being involved, so if you have any questions or just want to chat, feel free to contact me. The quickest way would be on Twitter: @thevindicated or on the Otherworlds Facebook page. http://www.facebook.theotherworldsuniverse

So that about sums up our interview with Otherworlds designer, Vincent Baker.  It was an absolute blast working with him on this interview.  During our correspondence,  he was polite, professional and really seemed to have his head around his Otherworlds vision and where it was headed.  We at 3-sided-die are looking forward to running a game of Otherworlds with our group, sometime around the kickstarter time-frame and will happily report all the shenanigans that transpired.

Vincent, thanks again for your time and for sharing Otherworlds with us at 3-sided-die.

Jinx

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.

Dungeons & Dragons Kickstarter Heaven – Dwarven Forge & Zealot Miniatures

Classic Dungeon

For those that play tabletop role playing games, especially those like Dungeons & Dragons, you have most likely heard of DwarvenForge.  DwarvenForge is one of the leading (if not THE leading) manufacturer of miniature terrain.    Stefan Pokorny, a professionally trained painter and sculptor, is the mastermind behind this modular dungeon terrain.  The picture above is from their website.

The current terrain is made out of what they call Dwarvenite, a dense, incredibly strong material that is practically indestructible as seen here.  They seriously ran it over with a truck and it bent back into place.  Gives me some hope when I’m playing with my 3 year old, that my pieces will still be in tact when we are done.  Previously they had a resin based terrain that was more susceptible to damage, though still very resilient.

More recently (in the past 2-ish years), Dwarven Forge has had two kickstarters, one for Dungeon Game Tiles and another for Caverns.  On average between the two kickstarters, they raised 2 MILLION dollars for EACH of them.  Insane right?  I was lucky enough to be part of both of them and all I can say is WOW.

I received my first set of kickstarter dungeon tiles towards the end of last year and have never been happier with a purchase.  Are they pricey?  That’s debatable.  At $85 for one set of hand painted game tiles, you get enough to basically cover 1 medium and 1 small room, which isn’t very much.  If you want to make any decent size dungeon, you are looking at some serious coin, however, you are getting a quality professionally painted product, that is indestructible, that is most likely going to last FOREVER. A bargain if you ask me!

The basic set consists of 34 pieces, which includes 14 walls, 6 corner pieces, 12 floor pieces and 2 doors.  During the kickstarter, the first set costs you $95 instead of $85, however it did include free shipping in the US.  As you added on more sets, the price dropped.  Not significantly, but enough to make a difference.  At 2 sets, you were looking at $170 or $85 per set, plus free shipping and access to all the stretch goals.  The stretch goals are where you get the biggest bang for your buck, and you needed to pledge at least $120 in order to qualify for those stretch goals, but we’ll go further into that later.

Just a quick side note:  The costs mentioned above are if you paid to have them hand painted.  You have the option to pledge for what they called “dungeon gray”, which were the unpainted versions for significantly less.  Since I was already investing in the product, I wanted them to look their best, so had them painted by the best.

Anyways, 3 sets at $235 brought the price down to $78.33 for each set.  Now for those of you that have experience with kickstarter and as I mentioned before, the stretch goals are the gravy.  When this kickstarter was active, I was checking the page like every 10 minutes (I was completely addicted) to see if we reached a new goal.  In general, the goals were about $50,000 to $75,000 apart, but this kickstarter was really on the move, right from the beginning.  I ended up with the 3 sets at $235, which allotted me 102 base pieces (34 from each set) and a whopping 120 FREE PIECES due to the huge success of the kickstarter.  So not only did I get the pieces at a reduced price, I got more than twice as many pieces than I ordered!  Plus the additional pieces included, were not part of the basic set, and included columns, curved and diagonal walls, walls with windows, barrels, stairs, pedestals and gold.  Great stuff all around.

Plus, included in those stretch goals was a mapmaker tool that allows you to design/build your very own map with all the dungeon pieces that were available, and it told you exactly how many tiles you used, so you can print out, collect the needed tiles and head off to your game.

So, it was an incredible deal, to say the least.  Again, it is pricey, but you’re paying for something that is going to last lifetimes, to be passed down through generations.  My 3 year old son plays with it now, marching his Skylander figures and knights through the prison (as he calls it) looking for treasure.  It’s awesome.

Caverns

So then Dwarven Forge launches ANOTHER kickstarter for cavern tiles earlier this year and I can’t help but jump in.  So, since these pieces were a little more intricate, you were getting 26 pieces in the basic set, which included 8 corners, 9 floors and 9 walls.  But, due to the success of the kickstarter, you got 27 additional pieces per set you pledged for and included some great additions like different floor and wall tiles, narrow passages, dead ends, stalagmites and even chasm edges.  Again…an awesome deal.  They are coming in November and I am PSYCHED.  The picture above is also from their website.

While I realize DwarvenForge still needs to complete this kickstarter before moving on to the next, I can’t help but wait in earnest for their 3rd kickstarter scheduled for sometime next year, that will include castles, roofs, etc….

A more recent kickstarter, by the MBA (Miniature Building Authority), started around September 18th-ish, revolves around hand-painted castles and buildings.  It has some really beautiful pieces, though a little too expensive personally.  While I would love to be able to drop thousands of dollars on this stuff, it’s just not feasible.  Their product is solid and painted to perfection, but on average, you need a good $1000 to get a decent amount of product.  Plus, I haven’t been impressed with their stretch goals.  They are giving away things like milk maids, or a well, which is nice, but for a kickstarter of that magnitude, I want to see some free small buildings or something to that effect.

Also, in other recent news, the president of Dwarven Forge, Jeff Martin, left the company to pursue his highly acclaimed True Dungeon, but also to kick start his own miniature terrain known as Up Works.  Up Works is miniature terrain for building castles and towers, and is hosting a kickstarter that began on September 30th.  One of the biggest features is the framework, as it allows you to remove an entire level of a castle at once, without disturbing the contents.  The walls/corner/floor pieces are built so that they fit securely into the frame, which is great.  The biggest downside is that the pieces are similar to the Dwarvenforge dungeon tiles and most of the pieces in each building/castle set include walls/corners/floors, which I really don’t need.  They have a framework add on pack, but it doesn’t seem versatile enough for my tastes.  I’m looking for castle walls, small and large square buildings and curved frames to cover all aspects of a castle.  However, the 1st stretch goal was pretty awesome.  With the 3 larger of the pledge levels, you got a whole free building set of the next lower pledge.  That is something I was expecting from MBA’s kickstarter.

What I would like to see, is a rooftop add on pack that is compatible with Dwarven Forge, which is really the gold standard of miniature terrain along with MBA.  However, they are now competing companies and I couldn’t or wouldn’t expect them to be compatible.

While I’m interested in both the MBA’s pieces and UpWorks, I’m going to have to sit back, start saving my money and put it towards next year’s DwarvenForge kickstarter, because the compatibility is important to me and I don’t want more of the same.  Plus, with DwarvenForge being the best in the business, waiting for the highest quality makes the most sense.

Twisted Catacombs

Perhaps one of the most exciting Kickstarters right now, is Twisting Catacombs by Zealot Miniatures, a UK based company.  The kickstarter is all about dungeon scenery and has some serious customization for its backers.  Doors are prevalent in each of the levels for pledging, but you can fore-go the doors and get a specific number of gold coins to spend on any pieces you want!  So while you still might have anywhere between 10-30 pieces that you can’t customize, you get a boatload of coins to customize your particular pledge level.  That is AWESOME.  It’s a genius idea and gives each individual exactly what they need and allows them to fore-go pieces they may never use.  I pulled this picture right from their kickstarter, found here.

I’m also pretty impressed with the level of communication the owner, Eddie Fisher has given over the first couple days of the kickstarter.  While I think he’s crazy for trying, he seems to be succeeding at answering just about any question that comes up in the comments or through kickstarter’s messaging system (as he’s responded to my inquiries promptly).  He’s doing his best to try and bring the scenery that the majority of his backers want and ask for.

I would recommend anyone who is looking to get started on any hobby, to peruse kickstarter, as usually you are getting a whole boatload of free stuff for helping to fund them, bringing the cost down considerably than if buying straight from the company.  I’ve had nothing but great success from the kickstarters I’ve backed and I would highly recommend giving it a go.  While there is a chance that the kickstarter won’t fund or does fund and then they run into other problems, I feel like it’s a gamble worth taking.

Anyways, enjoy the kickstarter ride, it is a LOT of fun.

Jinx

 

 

 

About jinx_the_bard

Longtime Dungeon Master, tabletop and video gamer. Been playing D&D and Shadowrun on and off most recently. Ran a post apocalyptic, paragon, 4th edition D&D campaign for a couple years. Running a 5th edition campaign now called “The Fall of Astia”. Enjoy Borderlands 1, 2 and even the Pre-sequel (which I tend to play with fellow author Ness), Fallout 3 and 4, Bioshock and Skyrim. (Games this good never get boring) I also indulge in Magic The Gathering, mostly in the Legacy and Modern formats. Please feel free to contact me at dungeonmaster.bm@gmail.com for any questions, thoughts or things you’d like to see featured on our site.