Dec 272011

So I’ve recently been pushing hard to make sure Evil Hat has enough plates spinning at once that we’ll have a pretty steady (if a bit irregular) slate of releases once the projects start reaching their conclusions. This means I have a spreadsheet with about a baker’s dozen projects listed in it, all in various states of development. And because Evil Hat is all about the transparency, I’m going to share some of what I’ve got in there — basically an outline for our nearish future in 2012 and beyond (sans release dates, because we don’t do that sort of thing).

It’s worth saying that some of these things aren’t surefire, definitely-happening projects — sometimes the project is figuring out if it’s a project — but most of them are capturing some amount of my attention on a regular basis, and I certainly want them to happen.

Do we have the money to make all of these projects happen at once, simultaneously? No. (We do have enough money to make sure the creative folks working on the projects get paid for their efforts — that’s my necessary minimum.) But they won’t be happening simultaneously, and in at least a few (or maybe even many) cases, we’ve got the option to throw a little Kickstarter juice at them. Our ambitions would be just a tad smaller if we didn’t have the option of crowdfunding in the mix. Thanks to Kickstarter, our ambitions are having a bit of a right time, right place quality to them, which is great.

Let’s get into the details.

Role-Playing Games

Don’t Rest Your Head

Don’t Hack This Game: Hopefully you’ve read the post about this already. Don’t Rest Your Head is over 5 years old at this point, and Ryan Macklin & I think there’s been a lot of great, creative play and hackery going on out there. Don’t Hack This Game will be a supplement for Don’t Rest Your Head where we collect some of the best ideas and give folks a roadmap for hacking the game to be what they want it to be. The system can be bent into all sorts of shapes, but that’s really only one piece of the puzzle.

Dresden Files

The Paranet Papers: This has been one of the “big dog” projects since the Dresden Files RPG launched. The Paranet Papers is part system update and setting catch-up (getting us mostly current into the beginning bits of Ghost Story), part campaign starter kit. That latter part is being addressed by us cracking up the city creation mold a bit and looking at six different “cities” that do it a little differently, all viewed in light of the fallout from Changes. Those locations: Las Vegas; the “Neverglades”; the open road (taking the Dresden Files in more of a Supernatural direction); the Russian Revolution; South America; and some of the “outlands” of the Nevernever.

DF Adventures: Fairly recently we got ink on a contract addendum that lets us do a handful of “for-pay” adventure arcs for the Dresden Files RPG. Previously we were only in the clear to do free web support type stuff, which is where our collection of one-shots for the Dresden Files (as well as a Fiasco scenario) came from. Now, we’re going to get to do some more ambitious stuff. We’ve got three such projects slated, and the option to do more. You’ll probably see these parcel out over the course of the next two years; at least one of them will include some new details about the Dresdenverse gathered straight from the Word of Jim.


Fate Core: This would be that new core Fate book that we’ve been promising folks since Spirit of the Century. We haven’t been burbling about this as much as we could over on, but that doesn’t mean the project’s on hold. Lenny is in straight up nose to the grindstone mode with this one; we’re hoping to have the full text to an editorial squad by February.


Bubblegumshoe: Evil Hat’s going to be exploring Pelgrane Press’s Gumshoe system a bit, with a focus on taking it in some more deeply “story-game” directions, in a pair of projects. The first of these is Bubblegumshoe, the teen detective roleplaying game. In essence, we’re looking for something that runs the gamut from Nancy Drew to Veronica Mars here — a mostly female-protagonist perspective, but with plenty of room for Hardy Boys and The Great Brain besides — with a focus on how our teen investigators interact with the authority figures and other relationships in their lives. This one’s got a trio of RPG experts working on it: Kenneth Hite, Emily Care Boss, and Lisa Steele.

Revengers: Evil Hat’s other Gumshoe system game will be penned by Will Hindmarch and features ghosts-as-cops who investigate murders for the recently dead and, when possible, get revenge for them. This one will be half whodunit, half let’s-get-’em, and Will and I have been talking about making several system decisions that put some real story-shaping power in the players’ hands, as well as building some unity between the game-space and the story-space. That’s a bit gearheaddy, so let me stress again: you’re dead cops solving murder mysteries and haunting the bejeezus out of the murderers. Badass.

Spirit of the Century

Strange Tales of the Century: A Spirit of the Century inflected tour of the mostly-real international pulps that existed in the first half of the 20th Century, with geek librarian superstar Jess Nevins as your tour guide.  This will be a must-have for fans of pulp who want to break outside of the often-common American-inflected mold. Strange Tales of the Century is one has been in the works for a while, but got spun into an editorial limbo a few years back. We’ve managed to breathe new life into it with an expanded editorial team and believe we’ll see this one out in 2012 for sure.

Board/Card Game

Race to Adventure: One of our two big forays into the board game arena. Race to Adventure!™ is an easy-to-learn family board game you can play in 20-30 minutes. It features heroes from the Spirit of the Century setting racing around the globe on a scavenger hunt, trying to be the first to get their passports stamped and return to the Century Club’s home base. Of course, they run into all sorts of complications from the villainous masterminds of the SOTC setting along the way. The game was designed by Evan Denbaum, Eric Lytle, and Chris Ruggiero, features card art by Spirit of the Century illustrator Christian N. St. Pierre, and graphic design by Daniel Solis.

Zeppelin Armada: The flipside of Race to Adventure, Zeppelin Armada is a fightin’ card game featuring the villainous masterminds of the Spirit of the Century setting. An artifact of ultimate power has been discovered — and EVERYONE wants it. So they gas up their zeppelins, and of course, all arrive at the site of the artifact at the same time. A nasty brawl ensues! Featuring rules designed by Jeff Tidball. This one’s going to end up coming up a little bit behind Race to Adventure in part because we’re using the same artist for both projects — there’s only so much he can draw at once!


Don’t Read This Book: A fiction anthology set in the Don’t Rest Your Head setting, edited by Chuck Wendig. This features some incredible authors — I’m seriously agog we got the roster we did for this — but I can’t list all the names just yet. I can say that it will contain a new short story by one of my favorite authors, Harry Connolly, and that I have read it, and that it is fantastic.

Dinocalypse Now: A novel — possibly the start of a trilogy if it is well-received — set in the Spirit of the Century universe, as psychic dinosaurs from the distant past try to take over the present and rule the future. Chuck Wendig will be writing this one, with the pulp action and strange science dials cranked to eleven. Expect to see the heroes from Race to Adventure put in an appearance, including our game’s classic love triangle, Jet, Sally, and Mack.

Graphic Novel

ElectriCity: ElectriCity will be a stand-alone graphic novel written by longtime friend C. E. Murphy — a superhero story set in a new world, with the rivalry between Tesla and Edison as part of the backstory of it all. We’ve been having a lot of fun developing the script and are working on finishing that up and assembling the artistic team. More than any other project on our roster, we’ll be relying on Kickstarter to help us determine if this is just a lovely dream or something we can actually bring to the world. 🙂

Mystery Projects

We do have a couple of them — pipe dreams, or opportunities that haven’t gotten any momentum yet. In nearly all of these cases that adds up to shouldn’t or can’t when it comes to talking about them, so I’m going to simply put a footnote here at the bottom that what I have listed above is not necessarily the whole span of what we’re hoping to do. In most cases, though, if something’s not listed above, it’s a project more likely to happen in 2013 than 2012 — though any of the above projects could end up in 2013 as well simply due to scheduling and effort particulars.

Oct 262011

Jeff Tidball and I have been looking at pricing on the Zeppelin Armada card game over the last several months (and yes, the process has taken months just getting in quotes and where warranted samples of the materials we’ve wanted to look at), to get a sense of what we’ll be looking at. (Sidebar: The game design is essentially done, or at least close to it, but we’re waiting on art before the layout job can begin. I’m also working on getting Race to Adventure put together, and RtA might even see publication before ZA, depending on how things all work out. But the ZA quoting process is also working to help narrow the field on who we might use for the RtA printing. Balls, in the air, juggled.)

I really like going with domestic printers where I can, but sometimes the math just doesn’t add up in favor of it. Right now, it’s coming down to this:

The Leading Domestic Option


  • Strong customer service
  • Turnaround times from placement of order to delivery of product are ideal
  • Pricing not competitive: estimated $4.84/unit @ 3000, $3.79/unit @ 5000.
  • Can’t deliver desired linen finish at quality/pricepoint we want

The Leading International Option


  • Pricing competitive: estimated $3.50/unit @ 3000, likely below or near $3/unit @ 5000.
  • Able to supply linen finish at quality/pricepoint we want
  • Customer service has not impressed me (slow responses, needs “tending” to ship samples, etc)
  • Turnaround times from placement of order to delivery of product are not ideal (overseas shipping means literal slow-boat-from-China effect, plus customs delays)

It’s a bitch; they’re exact opposites of each other, and each has pros that I’d really like to have, and cons that I have a hard time finding a place to be comfortable about.

That $1.34 per unit gap (or even 79 cent gap) you’re seeing on the hard number side is nothing to sneeze at — when you’re intending to price your product at $25, you want your unit cost to be $5 or lower, and the lower the better (assuming all things held equal on quality), because your $25 product is probably selling for $10 per unit into distribution, where you’ll likely make the bulk of your sales. So if I was making a choice based strictly on price, the International Option would be the clear winner.

But damn if I’m not having a hard time finding my peace with that. In my personal life I’m likely to make a choice of customer service over bottom dollar nearly every time, because I’m buying an experience as well as a product, and I want the experience to color my use of the product positively. So my instincts pull strongly in that direction, and push me to find compromises I can live with, like dumping the linen finish intention from the games, and so on.

And after my chance to do a ride-along on a shipment-from-China experience with Hero System 6th Edition (there’s a reason it didn’t get to GenCon in time, and it had everything to do with the international factor), I’m super gun-shy about international shipping times. When I’m publishing books, that’s a decision I can make comfortably. The turnaround I see with my domestic printing options, from POD operations to hard cover full color offset jobs, is just stellar, along with strong customer service, etc, etc. But I can also operate at a comfortably smaller scale with my printings, there.

Not so much with card games, where you’re likely to commit at a 3000-5000 unit level at least — they’d tell you that 10,000 copies is the better entry level, though I’m sticking to my “test the waters” instincts of keeping it down in the 3k-5k range. (Yes, yes, I know about the POD offerings that are in the works out there but I haven’t yet seen the data that tells me they’re ready for prime time.)  So the gulf between those two price points starts to add up, and worse yet if I push to add quality-enhancing value adds that push me over the $5/unit max. As shown above, we’re talking a four thousand dollar difference at 3000 copies. And, yeah: I could kickstarter the thing, make the initial target $4k (or more) to cover the difference between the domestic and the international option. But, guys? I’d rather that $4k go towards getting me a larger print run, or covering more of the other costs on the table. Angst, angst, angst.

So, I feel stuck. Luckily, I don’t have to commit to either of these options right away — I probably have a couple months yet to decide, and frankly January would be just peachy by me, though I expect the ball to start rolling a touch earlier than that. Still: stuck. When it all adds up, the cons are weighing down the pros in each scenario enough that I don’t really like either choice. But them’s my choices, given my constraints.

Which would you choose?

Jun 192011

Come Tuesday, I will be bound for Origins 2011. I’m trying something radically new there this year.

I’m not going as a publisher.

That’s not strictly true, of course. I’m going to check out the Origins Awards and hope for (but not expect) a win, and that’s an undeniably publisherish thing for me to do. I’ll meet a few people for business purposes, and I’ll be carrying around my Zeppelin Armada prototype deck for playtesting (if you see me and I’m available, feel free to ask to play).

But when it comes down to it, in the last 5 years of gaming conventions — which is most of the span of time I’ve done gaming conventions outside of AmberCon Northwest — I’ve rarely gone just as a “civilian”. This will definitely be my first Big Convention without a booth concern. (You’ll find Evil Hat’s stuff represented at the Indie Press Revolution booth.)

I’d say I’ll hardly know what to do with myself, but that’s a lie. I intend to:

  • Eat at the many fine eateries of Columbus, Ohio
  • Try to restrain myself from eating my body weight in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
  • Talk with all those lovely people I haven’t seen in ages, and even some of those who I have: Rob Donoghue, Chris Hanrahan, Leonard Balsera, Amanda & Clark Valentine, Matt Gandy, Jeremy Keller, Cam Banks, and more (if I leave you off the list, it is for brevity, not lack of desire!)
  • Drink while doing so
  • Spend some serious time in the Board Room
  • Hit up the Games on Demand area (though at 5 tables only in Delaware A, that may get crowded!)

I’m approaching all this in a vigorously ad hoc fashion, but I also don’t want to get to the end of it with an “aw, damn, I really meant to talk to…” feeling. So please track me down, or holler in the comments here if you’re looking for a slice of my time!

May 202011

Zeppelin Armada — Evil Hat’s first card game product, currently under development by Jeff Tidball — in the words of some of our first-round playtesters, describing the game to me as if I didn’t know what it is:

“It’s a dance of ever-moving minions protecting your nefarious airship schemes.  One part card game, one part positiony-strategy-move-it-aroundy action extravaganza.  With blimps.”

“In a world where nefarious villains and saucy sky-pirates roam the skies, you make your play to be the last man standing in a glorious battle in the sky. Strategy, luck and the powers of fate will be your best friends in this rip-roaring game of aerial warfare. Oh, yes, and did I mention that you have a fleet of zeppelins?”

“The sky is no place for the weak. With Gorilla’s Zeppelin’s launching volleys on you port and an armada of Mathmagicians on your starboard all gunning for you, you’ll need be on the lookout for attacks from both sides. Maneuver your own armada to shield your flagship, provide a platform to launch a barrage of your own, and rule the air!”

“Explosions surround your flagship and lights flash across the sky as your enemies send scores of rockets to destroy your armada. All the cunning, luck and great Fortune you possess will be needed to see you through the grandest sky battle ever witnessed. Long live the rightful ruler of the sky!”

So, why play it?

“It’s quick and clever.”

“Dude. You have a fleet of zeppelins. You blow up other people’s zeppelins. Do I need to say more?”

“Have you ever wanted to rule the sky with a fleet of Zeppelins? Have you ever wanted to blow your friends out of the sky and watch ans they crash and burn? Take to the air with Zeppelin Armada, guard yourself against the onslaught of your friends, and build a force to rule the sky!”

“You have a fleet of zeppelins. ZEPPELINS! If that isn’t enough, using cunning strategies and a bit of luck, you get to utterly destroy your friends with your superior force of both ship and armaments and rule the sky!”

And there you have it. 🙂

May 162011

Jeff is going to be making enough changes following our first round of Zeppelin Armada playtesting that we’re going to want to do a second round in another couple weeks or so. For this, we need both our prior playtesters already on board, and a handful of fresh-blood folks who haven’t seen the first iteration.

So if you’re not already a playtester for us, and you think that sometime in late May/early June you’ll be able to do some multiple-session playtesting (2 to 4 sessions worth is probably 2 to 6 hours), I am interested in hearing from you. Volunteer with your credentials in the comments below, or you can email me at evilhat on the gmail.