In the previous blog post, I talked a bit about what's in store for NerdBurger Games in 2017. I thought I'd round out the year with a look back on the journey that brought Murders & Acquisitions to fruition. Please indulge me for a bit. This is gonna get looooooong.
My Gaming History
I played my first Dungeons & Dragons game in the spring of 1991, during the second semester of my first year at college. My friend Brian insisted that I needed to try out the game and ran one D&D 2nd Edition game session set in Ravenloft with me, my friend Marcus, and Brian's roommate as players. I don't recall much about that game other than the fact that I played a half-elven bard who almost got eaten by a giant frog while pushing a raft through a swamp with a pole.
I was hooked. I devoured the game over that summer and started playing D&D with Brian, Marcus, and some other friends the next year. We played D&D, Shadowrun, and Star Wars. We dipped our toes in games like Paranoia and Toon. I started running games occasionally.
As college ended, I fell in with other gamers and we played Vampire: The Dark Ages, Changeling: The Dreaming, and more D&D. I ran some and played some. And I started writing a lot of stuff. I have hundreds of pages of written work that never saw play. I simply enjoyed the creative process and kept at it. I designed stuff for the games we played. I created a whole D&D world.
After a while, I played with even more gamer friends. We played D&D (of course), Rolemaster, Call of Cthulhu, and a few other things. I ran more games. I wrote more stuff that now sits on my hard drives.
My friend Jason Bulmahn became an organizer for the Highfolk region of Living Greyhawk for D&D 3E. He brought me on board to write a Highfolk adventure for the first year of Living Greyhwak titled "Winter Tears." In time, he moved to Seattle to work for Paizo and I wrote a feature article for Dragon magazine, paired with another feature article written by Chris Tulach, who would eventually work for Wizards of the Coast. I wrote a few RPGA adventures for Chris Tulach.
In 2009, the best thing that ever happened to my freelance career happened...I got laid off from my day job. During my four month "hiatus" from regular employment, I started writing more for D&D as Chris gave my name to Bart Carroll, Greg Bilsland, and Chris Perkins. I wrote a bunch of stuff for Dungeon Online and Dragon Online for the D&D 4E ruleset. I wrote a couple articles to supplement the Gamma World game WotC put out. I wrote a bit for Pathfinder. And I began writing a bit for Iron Kingdoms. I wrote everything from short, character-focused articles to longer adventures to a HUGE adventure called "Baba Yaga's Dancing Hut."
Having gotten my freelance design start with a friend giving me a chance, I started "paying it forward" when I could. I co-wrote a couple things with friends and helped one of them get their foot in the door to write a little more.
And I loved every minute, every page, every word. Not only was I continuing to write game material and enjoy the creative process, but I was getting PAID to do it!
In time, 4E D&D started to ramp down as the WotC team started working on 5th Edition. My freelance work started to dry up.
How M&A Started
It was summer of 2013.
With my regular sources of freelance RPG design dwindling, I started looking at other writing paths. I started contacting other RPG makers, and then...
My friend Matthew, sitting across from me at work, pitched a game idea. He described it as a board game where players climb the corporate ladder via backstabbing and generally being a-holes. I found the idea amusing. My RPG designer brain kicked in and I started to imagine the idea as a tabletop roleplaying game. I described the idea to Matthew and asked his if it was okay for me to run with it. He said, "Go for it."
After bouncing ideas off of Jason while he was in Atlanta for DragonCon that year, I began work on a game tentatively titled Murders & Acquisitions, a twist on a line from the movie American Psycho. I initially described M&A as "a 30-page mini-game." HAH!
By November of 2013, I had enough of the base game written to run playtests with some friends. Over the course of many months, I honed the game, playtested with friends, honed the game some more, and watched as it expanded well beyond 30 pages.
Eventually, I started taking M&A to small, local conventions to have strangers try it out. I enlisted a few playtest groups around the country (and one overseas) to give the game a whirl. The game began to take shape.
As I designed, I came to the realization that it was going to get bigger than I had initially imagined. Additionally, I began looking at what might get gamers interested in playing the game. Some players would be fine with playing a game set in the contemporary, real world. But certainly other gamers prefer fantastic elements in their games. And so began the development of add-on rules for magic, monsters, future tech, cosmic horror, and the apocalypse.
More design. More playtesting. More cons. Things went a little more slowly than I would have liked since I was limited by how fast I could get playtest feedback. But I felt that was okay. The game was gaining traction. It was getting bigger. I was gonna let it take as long as it needed to come to full fruition.
Stepping back a bit...
I realized early on that I wanted to document the process I was going through designing Murders & Acquisitions. It was entirely possible that this would be the only game I ever took to completion. So I started blogging about my design work at New World Alchemy, a site set up by my friend Dave, a burgeoning board/card game designer. He welcomed having a fellow game designer discuss design work on his site.
It's worth noting that Dave eventually created and published a card game called Addictive Alchemy. Check it out at New World Alchemy. It's a spectacular game, unlike anything I've seen before, and is a ton of fun.
The "One Year Plan" and NerdBurger Games
In May of 2015, I decided that M&A had enough traction to become a real game, one that I could publish for real. I put together my "one year plan," an in-depth outline of everything I needed to do to get the game ready to Kickstart.
I dipped into my pocket for money to pay others to do some things I could not. I brought a graphic designer on board to start working out what the game would look like in book form. I gathered a bunch of artists and had them do some initial work. I had some pretty things I could show to people at conventions.
I put out a call among a variety of friends to help out with layout, game design, character sheet creation, and graphic work. These friends jumped on board with no promise of significant payment. They simply trusted me, loved the game, and helped out.
I researched the Kickstarter process and built the Kickstarter page. I had a friend make a video for the Kickstarter.
I micro-managed the hell out of the entire process. Cuz that's the kind of person I am.
In August of 2015, I established NerdBurger Games and set up this website. I began blogging about my process here.
I started wearing all sorts of different hats beyond the "game designer" hat. Art director. Developer. Editor. Web designer. Publisher (to-be).
The game started to become a real thing that was going to happen. I hoped.
Again, stepping back a bit...
During all of this, I talked about M&A on the NerdBurger Podcast. I established this little podcast with my friend Mike well before I began working on my little game. As time went on, the game was discussed at length on the podcast, along with all the other stuff we talked about.
I give my heart-felt thanks to Mike for tolerating this. Though, Mike did the layout work on the game, building a skill set he didn't have before. And he got paid. So he doesn't get to complain anymore about the amount of time I spent talking M&A on the podcast. :-)
The Kickstarter...and After
As 2016 began, I wrapped up design work on the game. I enlisted two editors to help make it read well.
In May of 2016, I put this bad boy up on Kickstarter to fund the remaining artwork needed and a few other things. The Kickstarter was a resounding success (in my mind, anyway). I won't delve into specifics here. If you want to see how everything went, you can visit the Kickstarter page. You can visit the Schedule page here for a rundown of all the places I promoted the game. Lots of podcasts you can listen to.
The Kickstarter raised $6000 (a nice, round number) and funded everything needed to make the game happen. Most importantly, all those people who agreed to work on spec got paid fair rates for their work. And I made enough extra to end the year in the black and reimburse myself for money I spent previously.
The months after the Kickstarter saw artwork created, layout done, and a bunch of other logistical stuff on my end.
Kickstarter rewards went out to backers on Tuesday, December 20th. We delivered the game before the end of the year, as promised in the Kickstarter. This is perhaps my mostest favoritest part of the whole process. I've heard the stories of Kicstarters taking much longer to fulfill (and sometimes fail to fulfill). I established NerdBurger Games and ran the Kickstarter as I did in an effort to establish NBG as a company that will hit its deadlines and provide reasonable turnarounds on rewards.
And the game is now available at DriveThruRPG.com. I'm looking into other avenues of putting the game into gamers' hands. We'll see how that pans out.
As I've stated many times, Murders & Acquisitions is not just my baby.. A wide variety of people helped make this little game a reality. If you have the game, look at the credits page. You can also go to the About Us page on this website to see a list of people who contributed. Thank you to everyone who offered their varied and various talents to make the game a reality.
And...one final time...I offer my most sincere thanks to every Kickstarter backer. This game is a real thing that you can hold in your hands and play with your friends and enemies...because of YOU. Thank you.
Whew. As I said, that got loooooooooong. It's time to look to the future. I'm really looking forward to what NerdBurger Games has to offer in the future.
And I hope you're looking forward, too.