This is the PG-13 version of the clown monster for Die Laughing.
The character pages for Die Laughing will look like autopsy reports for the soon-to-be dead characters in the game.
Because layout guy Todd is fucking brilliant.
I recently uploaded the final CAPERS book files to the printer. The countdown to Kickstarter fulfillment is officially underway.
While I wait for the files to be approved and then a final proof gets printed and then shipped, I have a TON of planning to do to make sure fulfillment goes as smoothly (and as quickly) as possible. That planning will happen over the course of the next week.
So when will all the backers get their CAPERS Kickstarter rewards. It depends on file acceptance, printing, and shipping times, but if I had to guess…
CAPERS should go out to everyone on the week of October 1-5.
Plan for that. If it’s gonna take longer, I’ll let every one know.
It’s almost time, and I’m super-excited to unveil all the work the team and I did.
Here I am again, sharing a bit of what’s under development for CAPERS Noir. This supplement is looking to be a 52-page PDF/softcover offering. I’ve outlined everything, written a bunch of stuff myself, and have two freelance designers helping with some other bits.
The book will contain the following:
Overview - Describing what CAPERS Noir is all about and setting the stage for the 1940s setting.
Expanded Character Creation - Containing some 1940s-specific stuff, as well as some optional rules. A link to the first draft of this chapter can be found further on in this blog post.
Expanded Rules - This section will contain rules for investigation, the Shade Track, and a few other things. (The first draft of the Shade Track is in an earlier blog post.)
Powers - Containing eight new Powers usable in the base CAPERS game or in CAPERS Noir.
Goods & Services - Adjusted costs of equipment for the 1940s.
GM Guidelines - Advice for GMs running mysteries/investigations, adjudicating the Shade Track, and some other stuff.
Backdrop - A complete write-up of 1940s Los Angeles, filled with info on the city, notable organizations, locales, and persons, as well as story hooks.
Law Enforcement - A discussion of law enforcement in the 1940s, including what’s happening with the Registry of Abnormal Persons and a government-run monster hunting department.
Monsters - Full info and stat blocks for a variety of “creatures of darkness” in the dark 1940s.
Friends & Enemies - Stat blocks for additional, crime noir appropriate NPCs like the private investigator and femme fatale.
GM Toolbox - Another alternate realm characters can travel to, in this case, the Gloam, the spirit world.
Here’s a LINK to a PDF download of the first draft of the Expanded Character Creation chapter. Give it a look.
A quick look at the front cover of Die Laughing. It might change a bit, but this is mostly how it's gonna look. Designed by Todd Crapper (yes, you read that right).
This blog post is primarily for new social media followers I've recently seen coming in from the horror community. But everyone's allowed to read it. :-)
What is Die Laughing?
Die Laughing is a tabletop roleplaying game where the players portray characters in a horror-comedy movie. The assumption is that most, if not all, of the characters are going to die. It’s just a matter of when and how funny you can make it. The roles of lead character and director are shared around during game play. When your character dies, you become a producer on the movie and continue to influence the story being told. And there are a couple other things built into the game that give you things to do even after your character is gone.
The characters in the game are archetypes of the types of characters you see in horror movies. The jock, the loner, the soldier, the parent. The monsters are humorous adaptations of “types” of horror monsters. The crazed killer with weird weapons, the giant irradiated insect, the sexy vampire.
Game structure is built around three acts, each with a variety of scenes you might play out. Scenes are determined randomly, so it’s up to the players to invent ways to connect scenes together. There are triggers for when act 1 ends and you move into act 2, as well as for when act 2 ends and you move into act 3.
There’s a bit more to it than this, but those are the basics.
The final game will be a 6”x9” book, softcover or PDF, about 66 pages long. It might get a little bigger if I manage to convince a few horror icons to let me make them into monster/villains in the game. Debbie Rochon is already on board. I’m discussing things with Lloyd Kaufman and Joe Bob Briggs. I have inquiries in with a few others.
All of this is done in the spirit of fun and telling engaging, memorable, funny, and horrific stories. Die Laughing is my love letter to all these types of movies and the people who make them.
Expect a Kickstarter to begin on Tuesday, October 30th, the day before Halloween. And tell your friends.
In CAPERS Noir, the darkness seeping into the world can corrupt your soul. First pass at quantifying that in game terms below.
Things are pretty busy here in NerdBurgerLand. Truth be told, things have been BUSIER on a number of occasions over the past few years. But right now, things are busy in a different way. I have three games in different stages of "needs Craig's time."
As you know, CAPERS is in the proofing process, with expected Kickstarter fulfillment and publication coming in the next couple months (barring any unforeseen fuckery). Die Laughing is fully written and moving quickly toward Kickstarter, hopefully this year. CAPERS Noir is underway, with me writing and developing plans and talking to people about helping. Additionally, there are conventions coming up where I can pimp CAPERS and get people stoked for the Die Laughing Kickstarter.
It's a weird spot to be in for me, having this many different things all happening on top of each other. I'm kind of an anal-retentive guy and that is serving me well right now. I have a big ol' To Do List that I'm using to track all of this stuff. I thought you might like to get a glimpse of "how the sausage is made" in terms of all of this stuff.
Following is a glimpse of my To Do List. It doesn't include everything. In fact, the list is perhaps twice as long as what you see here. But most of that additional stuff is overly-detailed stuff that isn't terribly interesting to read. Honestly, I don't know if THIS info is all that interesting to you, but I thought I'd throw it out there anyway. For people who dig on seeing the inside process.
So yeah, there's a LOT going on. When will it end? Never, probably. At least, I HOPE it won't ever end. If it does end, it means I'm giving up on this whole NerdBurger Games thing. But right now I'm enjoying it enough that I'm pushing forward. For you. For fans of the stuff that's already out there. For CAPERS Kickstarter backers. For people that are interested in what's on the horizon.
So thank you for inspiring me. YOU make me busy and I totally love it.
More CAPERS Noir stuff in the works. Here's a look at the first couple pages in the book. An overview of what the CAPERS world looks like in the 1940s.
I've started writing stuff for CAPERS Noir.
Here's a little something. Preliminary, to be sure. but fun.
Busy, busy, busy.
I posted a metric shit TONNE of CAPERS progress in the most recent CAPERS Kickstarter update. Check it out!
Die Laughing Progress
The game is written, playtested, developed, playtested some more, developed some more, playtested even MORE, and finalized. The manuscript is done. I'm looking at editing and layout planning. And I've just started creating a Kickstarter page for the game.
Assuming all goes well with fulfilling the CAPERS Kickstarter, I expect to launch a Kickstarter for Die Laughing on Tuesday, October 30, the day before Halloween. I figure it'll only be a 2-3 week Kickstarter, so if you're interested in the game, plan for that.
I've outlined what I need to do to get CAPERS Noir underway. I'll be writing a bunch of stuff for it over the next few weeks. In fact, I've already started. Four Powers developed. A bunch of general setting stuff written. More to come.
I've contacted two RPG freelancers to help with a few things. They've both expressed interest. Here's hoping they are on board for sure.
My hope is to have this CAPERS supplement in good enough shape to get some playtesters moving by mid-October, late-October at the outside.
Now back to work.
GenCon was a blast. Here's a recap in quick, bullet-point format.
- Attended the Indie Groundbreaker Awards for the first time. Met a bunch of my fellow IGDNers in person for the first time and a bunch of cool other folks.
- Hung out at a secret, invite-only soiree with some online friends. Got a cool ring.
- Spent Thursday at my demo table at the IGDN booth. Met a whole bunch of cool people, including some backers who swung by to check out the CAPERS book. Sold some books. Chatted with IGDNers.
- Friday and Saturday I ran Games on Demand. 2 rounds of CAPERS. 4 rounds of Die Laughing. Tons of fun with a wide variety of players.
- Had some nice dinners with friends both old and new, including a big IGDN dinner on Saturday evening.
- Did some networking. There might be a CAPERS actual play campaign stream on the horizon. Fingers crossed.
A few of the big moments that will stick with me:
- I received a healthy dose of encouragement from a fellow designer that I come to respect more and more every time I hang out with him.
- At one Die Laughing table, I witnessed the moment when one of the players described the action so perfectly that EVERY other player was literally leaning forward in their seats, arms on the table, grinning wide, waiting for more.
- I took 38 copies of the Die Laughing preview edition to the booth. It sold out early afternoon on Saturday. WOW!
- At the last game of Die Laughing, I witnessed a relatively quiet young person seize the table in the last ten minutes as her character died. She gave such an imaginative, evocative, story-fitting description that the entire table applauded. It was wonderful.
- I made a few unexpected friends.
In case you're wondering, this is what Die Laughing looks like:
This weekend, I’ll be putting the final touches on the Die Laughing rules, based on the final round of playtest feedback. As I move toward finalizing the game, I find myself looking back on how the game came to be. I hope you enjoy the insights. It’s been a long, long road. But first...
I've been a horror fan for a LONG time. I've read many books, watched a LOT of movies, and given nearly every horror TV series a try, at least the ones I could easily get my hands on.
When I started playing RPGs, I tried out a bunch of horror games. It's not that I didn't enjoy these games. I did. I loved Vampire, both the modern day setting and the Dark Ages variant. I tried out a few others, but when playing ordinary people in horror games featuring them, I always ran into one problem.
What do you do when your character dies? Do you whip up another character? Play an NPC? Go home? In games where characters regularly die, some of the bite of losing your character was removed by the fact that you could just throw in with another character and continue on.
That said, we begin the game design journey about twelve years ago.
2006 - Ruminations
About a year before I moved to the Atlanta area, I took a stab at creating a horror RPG of my own. In order to deal with my problems of what happens when your character dies, I hit on the idea of creating a game where the horror story didn't focus on KILLING characters, but rather on the monster turning you INTO something. I started tinkering with ideas.
The game that became Die Laughing was initially (tentatively) titled One of Them. As in, "he's not dead; he's become ONE OF THEM!" Muwahahahah...
At this stage, the game was all in my head. I imagined it as a fairly traditional RPG. A bunch of players portray characters. A GM guides you through a horror story. At some point, your character is transformed into a vampire or zombie...or is possessed or controlled by a demon...or inhabited by a ghost. That sort of thing.
At this point, my RPG freelance career hadn't really gotten going, so I floundered a bit. This version of the game never got out of the "ideas stage."
2010 - I'm a Freelancer
By 2010, I had a dozen or so freelance RPG credits to my name, mostly for D&D. And I was neck deep in pretty regularly freelancing, never going more than a month or two without a project in my lap.
I had started gaining an understanding of how an RPG is put together, how it is designed. So I took another stab at One of Them.
In this iteration, I dove deeper. I actually toyed around with outlining things. Working on mechanics (d20, cuz that's what I KNEW best). I hadn't yet latched onto the idea that certain systems do certain things well and they don't always mesh well with certain game ideas. But d20 is what I knew, so I rolled with it.
It was still a traditional RPG. Players with characters. A GM running games. But this is a point where I started toying with exactly HOW a player whose character had become a monster could continue to be involved in the story being told. I started thinking of "The GM Team." When the game began, it was a GM with players portraying characters. As characters were transformed, their players became members of the GM Team.
I struggled with how to make this happen in a meaningful way, one in which these players would become part of the GM Team but not be relegated to just doing things when the GM said it was okay. I wanted more autonomy for them, but I didn't want to strip too much authority away from the GM.
I imagined a game where the players would start outnumbering the GM but as time passed, the GM Team would grow. Eventually, the final few players would feel "a turn" where they were now outnumbered by the GM Team members. I delighted in the idea of the game play EXPERIENCE this would provoke in players. It was like a horror movie/novel where by the time you get to the end, the remaining players have seen their friends turn and they have gotten increasingly desperate.
This iteration of the game fell to the ongoing freelance work I had. As I continued to freelance for Wizards of the Coast and then Privateer Press, One of Them fell by the wayside.
2012 - The Story Game
By 2012, the "story game" thing was happening. Fiasco came out in 2009. Other designers started creating games in the same vein, story games. These games focused on very simple rules and heavy narrative elements, with NO GM, to allow players to improvise a story.
In 2012, I played Our Last Best Hope at GenCon and then also Fiasco (my session overseen by Mark Diaz Truman of Magpie Games, who designed Our Last Best Hope). I had a blast.
Almost immediately after GenCon 2012, I started wondering if One of Them could be a story game. I contacted Mark Diaz Truman and we corresponded in email for several weeks. He was incredibly kind, helpful, and - most importantly - encouraging. I tinkered and tinkered and tinkered.
I reimagined One of Them as a story game with Mark's guidance. After several weeks of tinkering, I realized that I simply didn't have enough experience with story games to do my game justice. So once again, I shelved it.
But all the ideas I had from this and previous iterations continued to percolate in my brain.
2016 - I'm an RPG Designer
I started work on what would become my first, published RPG, Murders & Acquisitions in late 2013.
By mid-2016, I had successfully Kickstarted the game and was on my way to publishing it (which happened in December of 2016). Once again, my mind returned to One of Them and I started toying with the idea again.
As fate would have it, the great bird of RPG design ideas had taken a dump on my head in the form of the idea for CAPERS. So I was also working on that.
As I rolled into 2017, CAPERS was well underway and in near constant playtest. In between CAPERS design, development, adventure writing, playtest packet sending, and feedback compiling, I started working on my little horror game again.
This time around, several pieces fell into place that have helped make the game a real thing.
I realized my strength lied in more traditional RPG design, as evidenced by Murders & Acquisitions and CAPERS. But what about a middle ground between traditional RPGs and story games? I hit on the idea of having archetype characters, very simple in their basics, but with a few cool choices you could make to create a character that was all yours. There would be traits for these characters and you'd roll dice to determine success or failure, not in an individual action, but in whether your succeeded or failed at an overall encounter.
I combined this with the story game basics of there being no dedicated GM. Other players would help set the scene and create challenges for players whose characters were at the core of the story for THAT encounter. This would make the game a quick-play, zero-prep kind of thing, ideal for a one-shot. And that's what I was always going for, even back in 2010. I envisioned a zero-prep game that could run in 1-2 hours based on how many characters are present.
Now that there was no GM, there was no need for a GM Team. I had lost the buildup of the GM Team to invoke dread and panic in characters. As I toyed with ideas, I hit on each player having a single dice pool for character. They'd roll all their dice for trait checks, but that pool would decrease over time. They'd SEE their character's life draining away.
Demise? Yes, demise. Your character didn't need to be turned into "one of them." The character could die. And the player whose character is gone can still influence the story because EVERYONE influences the story because there's no dedicated GM.
At some point, I watched a bunch of horror movies. Then...
2017 - It All Comes Together
I had an epiphany while seeking a cohesive through-line for the structure of the game. You're not just telling a horror story. You're creating a horror movie. This introduced a movie-style scene structure that I could use to help the players introduce scenes and propel the story, er, movie, forward. I could have a bunch of basic scene setups (determined randomly, as improvisational prompts) in the game with enough info to help the players get the scene going. Then they play it out. Then they make trait checks. Then some of them lose dice. And everything moves closer to character death/possession/transformation/whatever.
Since the assumption for the game is that most or all of the characters are going to die/whatever, let's make it funny. So it became a horror-comedy game. Most characters aren't going to survive the movie, so let the players have a great moment where they get to describe a funny, ridiculous death for their characters. The game was renamed Die Laughing.
And it's a movie! What types of people make movies? Actors (covered by players portraying their characters). Directors (I introduced a Director role that would pass around among the players so they'd have things to do when their character isn't the focus.) PRODUCERS (When your character is gone, you become a producer on the movie and "give notes" (using a Producer Point expenditure system, so producers don't overwhelm the story) and force the remaining players to do things differently, messing with the movie being told and creating humorous situations where certain characters are testing well or the effects budget has been reduced.
And the monsters? Each monster would have its own strengths and weaknesses, its own flavor. And they could be funny and weird. Each would have a special rule called a Wrap Rule (as in, that's a WRAP for Bob). These rules provide even MORE things for players whose characters are wrapped to do for the rest of the movie.
I began playtesting with my own friends and taking the game to conventions to run 1-2 hour demo playtests. It gained traction.
2018 - And Here We Are
Playtesting continued in early 2018 at conventions. A while back, I sent it to several playtest groups composed mostly of people I don't know for fine tuning.
The randomized scene structure was revised into a three act structure where different scenes are available during different acts. Act 1 is all about setup and the initial death(s). Act 2 is all about escalation of the monster threat and character conflict. Act 3 builds the story to resolution.
I added rules for running sequels, where a surviving character can return to face the same monster again (for those players that want more than a one-shot). And I threw in some rules for creating post-credit scenes players can use to cap off their movie.
What began as an idea twelve years ago has come to fruition.
Die Laughing is a short game, in prep time, play time, and book length. It's a pretty tight system, with room for expansion material to potentially be created through some free PDFs or maybe even some slightly longer supplements that introduce character archetypes and monsters in other horror styles (J-horror, anyone?).
I'm pretty proud of the game and am looking forward to bringing it to the masses.
As I prep for GenCon, here's a very quick rundown of what non-CAPERS stuff has been going on in NerdBurger Land.
I've received all final playtest feedback from Die Laughing. Now I'm making final revisions and figuring out what the game book is going to look like. I have an artist and layout/graphic designer lined up. Just gotta confirm my editor, and we're off to the races. Kickstarter in the not too distant future. Learn more by finding me at GenCon.
High Level Games Con
I'll be attending HLG Con in Atlantic City in October 12-14. Kicking off the publication of CAPERS in freaking ATLANTIC CITY? What?!? Yeah!
(I lied. Tiny bit of actual CAPERS news. Yes, you read that right. It's looking like we'll have CAPERS out before Oct. 12.)
I just finished a little something for a game company I really like. So that was fun.
Craig's a Mentor
For the past six months, I've been mentoring an aspiring RPG designer through the IGDN. Yesterday, he began the countdown to Kickstarting his very first RPG, Entromancy. I've been looking forward to sharing this for a while. Kickstarting August 7.
How Do I Find the Time?
I'm honestly not entirely sure.
Plans are formulating to create a series of short supplements for CAPERS over the course of the next many months.
First up is CAPERS Noir, a supplement advancing the core game to the 1940s and shifting focus from Prohibition (which is ended) to crime noir drama and adventure. Gangsters and law enforcement characters treading the slippery slopes of darkness and corruption, both of the world and of the soul. Additionally, this version of the world includes ghosts, Hydes, and other Victorian age monsters translated to the 1940s. The following things are tentatively on the docket for this supplement.
- A description of how to use the content in this supplement with the CAPERS core rules.
- An overview of the era.
- Expanded rules for investigation, moral slippery slopes, and dealing with monsters.
- New character options like conditional Powers (abilities your character can have that are dependent on drinking a concoction or being in a particular situation), and how the "darkness" of the setting can both touch you and be harnessed by you.
- A series of new Powers that fit the setting, like Contact Spirit, Light Manipulation, Shadow Manipulation, and the like.
- GM info, including how to run a crime noir game, using light and darkness in the game, and "Bumps in the NIght," the Victorian age style monsters that share the world with you.
- A complete backdrop setting for Los Angeles, including info on the city as well as notable organizations, locales, and people.
- A bunch of new NPCs for use in the setting.
- The Spirit World, a mirror reflection of our real world where dead things "live."
If you have suggestions for anything you'd like to see in this supplement, pop over to my Facebook Page and chime in.
Let's keep this one short and sweet. Here are a couple of double page spreads from the book along with a LINK to download the pages to read at your leisure.
All about Law Enforcement
The past couple days have seen a flurry of activity from Beth finishing up the illustrations for CAPERS. She has a couple left to nail down, but most of them are done. Here's a look at several of them.
Clockwise from upper left: A shot of Atlantic City. A gangster and a fed in a warehouse, a super-powered gangster using the hypnosis power, and a portrait of Carla "Lucky" Luciano.
Left to right: A lovely gal wielding three pistols, one with her prehensile hair. A shot of a pretty riled-up fellow preparing to open fire on a super-powered woman. A look at a scientist creating an automaton (part of one of the Alternate Earths in the GM's Toolbox chapter).
I'm thrilled with the work Beth has done on CAPERS. I designed the game (with the help of a bunch of people), but it's BETH that has really brought the world to life. Thanks, Beth!
With the most recent CAPERS Kickstarter update, I pointed backers to a Google Form where I asked them about their interest in seeing supplements for the game. So far, I've received 74 responses. I expect I might see a few more, but most of the backers who are really interested in seeing such things have probably already responded. If you're reading this and haven't yet responded, click the link to the update above and then follow the link there to the survey.
I find myself in a weird spot. When creating M&A and CAPERS, I never really planned to create further supplements for the games. A few PDFs with some cools stuff, sure, but we're talking freebies. A supplement, or multiple supplements -- which would make this a GAME LINE -- wasn't on my mind. With how well the CAPERS Kickstarter did (532 backers), I'm faced with the idea that supplements might actually be a good idea.
The Game Line Conundrum
Here's the issue. Supplements never sell as well as a core game, even for bigger companies with more popular games. Adventures can sell okay, as can more general content supplements, but they'll only get a fraction of the action of the core game. Now, offering supplements CAN help more people find the core game, but you likely won't get THAT many new purchasers, even with a fairly successful supplement Kickstarter. I've studied some other small, indie RPGs that Kickstarted supplements, and I feel like I'd maybe get 20 or so new core game buyers from a supplement offering.
Seventy-four interested backers PLUS twenty new core game purchasers makes for a potential backer number for a supplement of less than 100. That 100 likely wouldn't actually happen, as some of the people who initially expressed interest may have their interest drop off over time.
I've crunched some numbers on the idea of creating one or more supplements of 40-90 pages. All the maths tell me that I'd need a good 100 or so backers to make it happen financially. And that would only keep me in the black. It wouldn't necessarily net any profit. That said, profit isn't THAT big of a deal on such a small Kickstarter. It's more about getting the game in front of more people who missed the initial core game Kickstarter...and satisfying the current backers. It would help build an audience with a more robust game line, but it's still a gamble.
So I'm in a weird place. I have plenty of ideas for things I could do with supplements for CAPERS, some of them my own ideas, some of them garnered from suggestions made by those who filled out the survey.
That said, I'm not ruling the idea out. I've only just begun exploring the idea. There's plenty of time to continue my research. Plus, I'll be attending GenCon this year so I'll have plenty of fellow indie RPG designers at my fingertips and I'll be able to pick their brains on the idea.
There's a pretty good chance that I'll at least give it a shot. But we'll see.
Feel free to comment on this blog post if you have any thoughts on this.