There are a few role-playing games out there that I admire the heck out of, just because they dare to be slightly different. I found this via Filamena Young and I have another example that I’d like to bundle up in this post. I love RPGs that dare to do stuff just a little bit different. One of them is Last Stand, a game from Fünhaver Industries, where the creator has this sad story to tell:
I actually got a lot of flak for it though, during the Kickstarter and prepping for release. A number of colleagues hinted that I should, uh, worry more about my demographic and think about what they would actually like to see on a cover. A number of them recommended something less “exotic” or advised that I shouldn’t “tank sales just to make a point”. I got told more than a few times that it would never get on retail shelves unless I went with a more conventional central figure. (Dragon’s Lair in San Antonio and Austin will be stocking the book. I even did an in-store demo at the Austin location.) Some people didn’t even hide behind vague advice, I got told point blank to change the protagonist or the book would never sell since nobody can identify with her. Which was, uh.
It was a depressing series of experiences all around, but all of the fans I’ve talked to love the cover so that’s more important really.
Here’s a guy – Brandon Schmelz – that tries to step outside of what is normally considered “selling” and gets a rap on the knuckles for it. I’m not surprised, but it does make me somewhat depressed. What if this guy didn’t have the guts to go with his original vision? How many dudes out there with a wish to do something different gets hammered down before they dare to make the leap? Anyway, I think the cover art is kick ass, non-white, non dude all awesome. The artist’s name is George Cotronis. You can find Last Stand here. Buy it. Or wait until the print copy comes out and buy that. Or do as I did. I intend to buy both. Good ideas should not go “unpunished”. Last Stand is a very action packed game, but from what I’ve heard – not read it yet as I bought it.. uh… five minutes ago – it’s pretty good. It also has insect bio suits.
Another brilliant initiative is On Mighty Thews. Yet one of those really wonderful people who might – with luck! – change the way RPGs look for the better. His name is Simon Carryer and he had a very specific agenda when ordering his cover art:
Sword and sorcery is a pretty problematic genre. Leaving aside its race problems (and believe me, some of the classic works are unbelievably racist), the genre’s treatment of women is questionable even at its best. While there are a few women authors in the genre, like Tanith Lee or C. L. Moore, female protagonists are rare, and most women in the stories are nubile princesses, naked slave-girls, or sometimes wicked enchantresses, for variety. Sticking a white dude on the cover of my game would be missing an opportunity to redress one of the worst parts of the genre. One of the things I love about tabletop roleplaying games is that it allows you to reinterpret and explore a genre from a different perspective, and I wanted to highlight this opportunity in my game.[…]
The final cover image for my game is one I’m really happy with. The woman looks strong, purposeful, and intense. She’s attractive, but her sex appeal isn’t the central focus of the image. This is the kind of character you play in my game, and that’s the message I wanted to communicate.
He’s written a long and very illuminating blog post over at Border House, which I think you should read. I also think you should buy On Mighty Thews and support this game as much as you can. The artist for On Mighty Thews was Scott Neil. You can find more information over at Simon Carryer’s blog about the game. I am, as ever, true to my recommendation, so I do have a copy of the game that I bought as soon as I saw the blog post from Border House. It is indeed very Sword and Sorcery.
It is very possible to make things that are not as things are “supposed to be” but it takes a bunch of people to test the waters, get successful and tell others about their success before things will actually start happening. These two writers are on the path of doing that and I respect them for trying. Hopefully they will be rewarded for their forward thinking!