Strange Arcana: The Stars are Right

About a year ago, I wrote a little post about Superman versus Cthulhu.  It was not merely an idle musing on how to marry the bright four color world of superheroics and the hopeless ennui of eldritch horror — it was the thesis for my work on the Strange Arcana universe from Sigil Entertainment and Aaron Acevedo. At the time, I was seriously considering doing some RPG self publishing and knew I would need some art for any such project. I tossed out a call on Facebook to get recommendations for royalty free art. Aaron, with whom I had worked in writing a story for his Maelstrom fiction anthology, suggested we team up and the rest is history. Strange History, in fact.

 

I did my first professional RPG writing for White Wolf Publishing (who didn’t, right?) on the kitchen sink, dialed-up-to-eleven epic fantasy RPG Exalted. Later I did some work for the d20 reboot of the famous post apocalyptic science fantasy game Gamma World. Unfortunately, real life got in the way when my kids arrived and I could not sustain a freelance RPG career. I always missed it, though, and when Aaron proposed an opportunity to get back into that world, I was ecstatic. And terrified.

 

It wasn’t easy. Writing for games is entirely different than writing fiction, and I had spend the intervening years focusing on fiction in hopes of one day Making It Big. (Spoiler alert: I am still hoping.) What was originally supposed to be a short turn around job has become a year long odyssey through this world of super heroes and malevolent forces. While the idea and the world belong entirely to Aaron, I feel a sense of kinship with the world we have developed. Both super heroes and Lovecraftian monsters are easily misused — both are subject to tired tropes and cliched stories. But I think our little team, which has grown well beyond Aaron and I, has found a way to make both new and fresh while simultaneously creating a world that blends the two and is more than the sum of its parts.

Strange Arcana: The Stars are Right is only the first piece of that world we want to share with you. It is a fiction anthology, culminating in a beautifully illustrated comic book, that introduces the weird world and strange heroes. It will be followed in early 2017 with the Strange Arcana RPG for Savage Worlds (and, if we hit our goals, hopefully Mutants and Masterminds and FATE as well!) and, we hope anyway, a long line of support.

I love fantasy and I love post apocalypse and I love cosmic horror, but no genre hits all the cylinders for me like comic book super heroes. It draws on all the genres we love and at the same time remakes them. And more than any other genre, it demands complex characters — those secret identities, love interests and recurring villains are there for a reason, after all. With the infusion of its own take on eldritch horror (far more than a simple Lovecraft retread) Strange Arcana promises to reinvent the super hero genre for years to come.

 

Get in on the ground floor. Back Strange Arcana: The Stars are Right Kickstarter. I guarantee that by the time you finish the anthology you will be clamoring for more.

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Dreams of Ruin: The Kickstarter

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My friend and colleague Geoffrey Grabowski has created a amazing high level adventure supplement for old school science-fantasy (a la Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future from Goblinoid Games) called The Dreams of Ruin, which I have teased here for a couple of weeks now. The Kickstarter is finally live and you can back it here. Geoff was the developer of the first edition of White Wolf’s massively successful Exalted Role-Playing Game and Dreams of Ruins comes from the same origin point in him, full of big weird ideas intended to be played.

The game releases for free on May 15th. “Wait, if it is being released for free, why have a Kickstarter?” you ask. I’ll let Geoff explain from the KS page:

We’re going to release the book into free circulation under a CC-NC-ND-BY license on May 15th. That means, you are free to circulate it, but you can’t use it for commercial purposes, you can’t create derivative works, and you have to attribute it.

We are then going to sell copies of the archive for $22 ($20 + KS fees). When I have sold the equivalent of 5,000 of them — a total of $100,000 net of direct selling expenses like venue fees — the license on the product will convert to CC-BY. You will be free to create derivative works, and even reproduce the material commercially, so long as you attribute the work.

In other words, “buying” the book helps make it truly Open. It is an interesting funding model and license structure.

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In support of Geoff and this project, I will be using my quiet little corner of the internet to help get the word out. Next time, I’ll have an interview with him and then a full review of the book. I will cap it off with my own set of conversion guidelines for using The Dreams of Ruin with 5th Edition D&D.