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Kickstarter Chronicles: Conclave

Like the last Kickstarter we featured, Conclave is attempting to take advantage of new ways to play the same roleplaying campaigns we love so much. This one is taking on a much bigger task, as Inkarnate was a platform for character management that supported multiple existing roleplaying game systems like D20 and Pathfinder. Conclave is a game that takes the concepts and parts of turn-based roleplaying games and has its own world wrapped around it.

The digital space allows us to keep in touch with people and maintain relationships with friends who are thousands of miles away. Back in the late 1990s, I sat at my computer in IRC channels and talked games with friends. Now, I can just log onto Facebook and see what they're doing. I can tweet them while I'm in-between sets at the gym, or I could hop into GroupMe while commuting the train to see what my old college buddies are chatting about. I also need to be able to do that as I work on my career, continue my education, and do whatever else adults do.

I can also play games with them during these moments of downtime. None of them are particularly robust or immersing, but Conclave might be the game that offers me the nostalgia of my younger gaming days while giving me the accessibility I need with my daily workload and responsibilities.

I spoke briefly last time about my previous RPG experiences, about the front-loaded time-sink required to start playing. What I didn't mention is the amount of time actually required to play. Sometimes getting your dungeon group together can be like herding cats. Everyone has some sort of responsibility, and, as we grow older, it's tougher to let things slip. I mean, if I didn't study well for a test, that's just an individual slice of an overall grade which is an even smaller part of my overall class grade which is an even smaller part of my GPA. Now, if I miss a deadline, I have to explain to my producer why I didn't get something in and have to hope this doesn't affect future milestones or another team's production … which is why I never, ever miss my deliverables. ;)

Conclave is promising me the joys of tabletop RPG playing in a new world with the convenience of asynchronous play. That means it plays like Words With Friends, Ticket to Ride iOS, or Ascension iOS. When you take your turn, you kick the figurative ball to your teammate who can then take his or her turn, who then kicks the ball back to you so you can take your turn. You're not necessarily waiting on people, nor are you trying to get everyone grouped together and free on Friday nights. If you do want to play that way, that's awesome and you can kick butt together on the digital space. But, for those of us who are jamming something into every possible minute, it allows us to play during those brief periods of downtime.

And what of this brand new world? I asked Derek and here's what he had to say:

"When we were brainstorming ideas for the world at the very start of the project, we were influenced by a few factors.  One is that we wanted there to be plenty of places that would be unfamiliar to the characters in the story; at the same time, we didn't want the world to be a total wilderness, either.  Another is that we wanted the heroes -- the players' characters -- to truly be unusual and not just members of a widespread adventuring class as in some RPG worlds.

Of the half-dozen settings we tossed around, the Conclave fit those desires best.  I think the original inspiration for it was this question: What would the inverse of Mordor look like?  Instead of an evil realm surrounded by mostly decent places (and the occasional necromancer's tower or dragon's lair), what if civilization had largely withdrawn to a single land?  Of course the lines aren't always clear-cut; the Wilderkin of Kzauth, the Crooked City, would and do protest loudly at being labeled uncivilized, for example.

The setting also allows us to explore the theme of a dark age, of people losing their dreams and ambitions.  The Conclave is a magical place, yet it's also one where most folks have hunkered down and accepted a constrained and limited view of its potential.  The players represent those who haven't abandoned the idea that the world can be improved.

We created the original races of the Kin because we want the setting to feel classic but not stereotypical.  If your world has dwarves and elves, you're introducing certain expectations for how they're going to behave; you can mix those up, and sometimes it's fun to do that, but you have to spend time fighting those expectations.  We also don't want players to feel too constrained by their choice of race; the Kin might have certain tendencies, but that's all they are.  We created five races because five is an important number in Conclave: there are five basic traits, five great Traditions of magic, and (currently) five archetypes.

We drew upon both modern and mythical sources for the names and characteristics of the races.  The nix and trow are derived from folklore, though both races diverge from their mythical counterparts.  The forgeborn were inspired by the fire giants of Norse mythology, with a few dwarven characteristics as well.  The mezoar are a twist on the reptilian races that appear in some other fantasy games, wise and chameleonic rather than primitive or draconic.  The lumyn don't have a direct inspiration, though they were likely influenced by Neil Gaiman's story 'The Heart of the Star', Magic: The Gathering's moonfolk, and the dualism of elves and drow in D&D."

Nick and Derek over at 10 x 10 Room, the ones creating this game, are dedicated. They are trying to live the dream. They quit their jobs to focus on Conclave, and that alone deserves a lot of respect. It takes a lot of gumption to quit a 9-to-5 in order to follow their dreams, and they've gotten as far as their beta test on their skills alone. That's awesome, and now they're asking us for help in improving Conclave before it releases. From Nick of 10 x 10 Room:

“We finally started marketing the game in March.  At that point, we got a lot of interest, but we also saw a consistent theme from both players and early reviewers:  "this game has lots of potential!"  After hearing that enough times, we decided we needed to step back and figure out exactly what it would mean to truly fulfill that potential.  We looked again at player feedback, and came up with a list of the features that would really make Conclave an A+ game.  They are exactly the features in our Kickstarter:  animations.  Music and sound effects.  Deeper group decisions, with skills factoring in, and a wider variety of possible outcomes.  Character customization.  Improved ways of finding parties and friends.  And so on.”

Because they're awesome dudes who are gamers first, they're making the game completely accessible at the $10 Kickstarter backer tier. There are no gimmicks, no “energy pills” or whatever free-to-play games are peddling these days in order to extract dollar bills from you. You get the full game at $10. And, if one of your buddies has one of the expansion campaigns, you can play with him by piggy-backing on his expansion. But, because they're so open and generous with their content, you'll definitely want to support it beyond that initial $10. I recommend the $40 Guildmaster tier for those who typically organize the games and want to lead their friends. For those who just want to play, the $35 gives you four individual games—one for you, three for your friends.

If you're interested in some of the extras like the soundtrack, you can hit the $75 tier. If you're interested in playtesting new content and giving developer feedback, the $100 tier puts you in the Inner Circle. There are even more options at $500, like getting your hands on original Chris Rahn art!

If you've lived a lifetime of tabletop RPGs and want to get the gang back together in the digital space, Conclave is the game for you. Old college buddies, a high school gaming group, or your company gaming group that's working all sorts of different shifts—there are so many people who can benefit from a system that lets anybody in the world join your party and lets people play on their own time. Imagine, your friends in Australia can game in your campaign while you're making decisions during your lunch hour in Seattle! And adventure you will, as there's an entire new world out there to explore. So, kick in a few bucks on Kickstarter and join the open beta on the website. There's only a little bit of time left, so take up the quest to see Conclave launch!

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