The development blog of table-top role-playing game "Fight to Survive: Martial Arts Meets Heart" by James Kerr
The Local Scene
There are three geeky stores within a 10 minutes walk of my house, in my small Canadian city called Orillia. One is a comic shop, one is a board game shop with lots of miniature wargaming stuff, and one is a cafe where you pay a flat fee on entry to have access to their board game library, arcade machine, and space that you could use to play a table-top role-playing game. At every one of them there is only one table-top role-playing game product: Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, and for that each carries the entire line. When I asked if there were plans to carry another ttrpg, the line I got, each time, was "What, you mean Pathfinder?" It smacks of the Blues Brothers (1980) line of "We have both kinds of music, country and western."
For the ttrpg history buffs out there, Orillia was the birthplace of Robin D. Laws, and has been a place of some significance to at least the Canadian table-top role-playing game community. Yet, there is no annual convention here, and even while there are three shops proffering role-playing within a 10 minute walk's radius, to them - ttrpgs are D&D.
That Guy Who Plays Indie Stuff
When I moved here part-way through the pandemic and found this to be the case I was essentially faced with a choice: do I start being "that guy" and put up posters for weird and different systems, offer free drop-ins, sit there for a few weeks with nobody interested, eventually rope in one or two folks and then over the course of about a year and a half develop a devoted and loyal gaming group? That's a lot of work. Or, do I move my love of the hobby online?
Like many of us, I have adapted to a frequent and flagrant online play schedule, and Discord now knows more about me than any secret government file could. A part of my heart hurts from this, on the basis that it really divorces local community from the ttrpg equation entirely, but, frankly, I'm tired of fighting D&D.
Side-Note: D&D is Like Porridge
D&D can be lovely and I do run it sometimes, but playing only D&D sounds to me like only ever playing one video game. People not stepping outside D&D is like saying "I can do everything I could ever want in Elder Scrolls, why play another video game?" That's what I hear. It's like eating porridge for breakfast every day - yes, fine, but...maybe let's try a banana, for fun?
So, what does it mean to be not-D&D in the D&D-dominated ttrpg market? It means you have to fight.
The Fight for Fight to Survive
This brings me to my Kickstarter for my strange indie passion-project ttrpg Fight to Survive: Role-playing Martial Arts Meets Heart. Fight to Survive's Kickstarter is currently on Kickstarter and you can see the campaign here. At the time of this writing it has been launched on Kickstarter for 2 and a half days or so, and it is approximately 60% funded. That is entirely to be expected. It has to fight.
There are ways this fight could have been made easier, but I chose the hard way: I chose to make the game not 5e, to make it not Powered by the Apocalypse, and furthermore to make it diceless of all things (is it really a RPG at that point? I often have people ask) with unorthodox mechanics and to focus on an exceptionally niche theme and setting: mundane martial artists in the 20th Century. I could have broadened appeal if it was anime inspired, or at least a Street Fighter II rip-off, or if I just stuck a 2d6 roll mechanic with sloping results in there, slapped a PbtA sticker on there and out it went. And if I did, Fight to Survive wouldn't be nearly as good - at least in my mind,
There are more than 100 backers for the project now, and I feel blessed that people are coming out from all across the Internet (with exceptional support from merry England). It emboldens me to fight the hard fight on the game's behalf. All I need to do is wrestle this thing across the finish line.
I probably shouldn't have named it something that feeds into the ironic situation of struggling to fulfill it. But if I'm being honest, there's a big part of me that's pleased at the prospect of being scrappy about this, and that it will be a more meaningful victory. I believe in this game, deeply. and I've met a few people now who grok it, who feel passionately about it as I do. That number will only grow.
Radio James Games
Update: On Tuesday April 12th at 8:00pm eastern standard time, 262 backers pledged $8,014.29 to help bring the project to life. Holy cow. I'm so grateful.