I am a gamer. I love all kinds of fantasy and science fiction games: video games, board games, strategic card games. Over the years I’ve enjoyed games of all kinds, sinking the vast majority of my gaming hours into one roleplaying game or another. But one thing I never really did was tabletop roleplaying, mostly because systems like DnD have so many complex rules. So I was delighted to discover Tiny Frontiers, a minimalist science fiction roleplaying game currently running a campaign on Kickstarter–which has already been successfully funded and achieved multiple stretch goals.
I was even more thrilled when Alan Bahr, the primary game designer behind Gallant Knight Games(also the game designer behind the Schlock Mercenary RPG), agreed to do an interview here on the blog. As somebody who frequently daydreams about creating game worlds and content(and might have a few ideas already written down) I was of course eager to pick his brain. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about the RPG creation process as much as I have!
- Can you tell us a bit about Tiny Frontiers?
Tiny Frontiers is a rules light science fiction roleplaying game. It’s built to play quickly, be easy to teach (and kid friendly), and help the GM minimize prep.
- What originally inspired you to create Tiny Frontiers?
Tiny Dungeon, frankly. I backed that Kickstarter and was very impressed, and caught to the idea of a Science Fiction version of the game. I love taking Tiny Dungeon to cons, and science fiction seemed just as valid as a game! I also wanted to write a sci-fi RPG where being in a ship felt positive. Too many of my experiences were of the “hurry up and wait” variety, while the pilot and gunner took all the actions, and my doctor or scientist was less than useful.
- How did you select writers to create the micro-settings for Tiny Frontiers?
Some of them I’ve worked with before, some of them are personal friends who are authors, and some were recommended by other writers. It’s sort of just been whomever reaches out to me on a level, be it friend, former contributor or a recommendation. I asked for ideas, and we narrowed down the ideas to the ones we felt were either most interesting, necessary, or exciting.
- You’ve participated in multiple Kickstarter campaigns as a partner before. How did these experiences prepare you to run your own campaign?
Well, I had a pretty good idea of what a good presentation looks like, how far along I wanted to be ready, and what was a good schedule and reasonable time-frame for all the components. I also learned a lot as a consumer of Kickstarters. I’ll have backed close to 50 by the time Tiny Frontiers ends, and I’ve learned what I like, and don’t like, from the presentation. LudiCreations runs my favorite Kickstarters, and I started with the idea to emulate them a bit. I got away from it more than I’d have liked, but as I go on, I plan to model my Kickstarters more and more like they do. The first one, I took a bit more of a traditional approach, and it’s worked pretty well (probably why everyone uses it).
- How long was Tiny Frontiers in development before you took it to Kickstarter?
Well, we were pretty done with the rules in December 2014, but my pressing commitment was as the rules developer on Planet Mercenary (the RPG based on the popular Schlock Mercenary webcomic). As my portion of Planet Mercenary was being finished, we were able to start playtesting and streamlining Tiny Frontiers again.
- As I’m sending you these questions we’re about a week into your campaign. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since you started?
That Kickstarter emails me for every backer, changed pledge, comment, or like. You want to see if you can keep it together in the face of anxiety inducing emails? Run a Kickstarter. You start to worry when the emails slow, or someone cancels a pledge, or there’s a less liked update. It’s a popularity contest against yourself, and is really hard to win.
- There are many potential micro-settings if the campaign hits stretch goals. Do you plan to eventually release these micro-settings later even if the campaign doesn’t hit stretch goals?
Yes. However, the releases of these micro-settings (be it in PDF form or free) is dependent upon the cash flow this Kickstarter generates. We haven’t paid all the writers, so they haven’t turned everything in. It’s really just a matter of finances, but yes, all the micro-settings will come out, and I hope we get a lot more.
I’d love to do a yearly collection of the best fan-made micro-settings and publish those in a print on demand format, as a book. But that’s a pretty big dream.
- What are some of your favourite tabletop games?
Man, that’s a harder question. I think RPG wise, my go-to system is Savage Worlds (I’m a massive fan of that system, and plan to work with it soon). Obviously, Planet Mercenary is pretty cool. But my absolute favorite RPG is Pendragon by Nocturnal Media (they have an unrelated KS on right now [Web and Starship]). I love the mechanics of Pendragon, the theme, and the unique and clever way they’ve blended the need to roleplay right into the game.
Board Game wise, I’m a big fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse, the old Highlander TCG (it’s barely alive and tons of fun), and currently, my favorite board game is [redacted], an espionage bluffing game. I play most LCGs, have played most CCGs, and have a huge collection of board games we play. We try to net a board game a week.
- If you could give an aspiring gamemaker any one piece of advice, what would it be?
Work really hard. Spend a lot of time failing, because every failure makes the success a little bit easier. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and talk to those who know.
- Are you already dreaming up the next game? I’d love to hear about it!
Well, honestly, my hope is, we do well enough I can roll excess funds right into prep work (such as art, graphic design, and samples) for the next game. But yes, I have about 4 finished game systems, and a massive whiteboard with lists of roleplaying games (and a few board/tabletop games), I’d love to get out. You can certainly expect more.
Additionally, we already know what the next Kickstarter will be, so that’s already getting underway on a prep side.
Gallant Knight Games is a new game company, which focuses on roleplaying games at this juncture. We currently consists of Alan Bahr as the principal designer/creative/writer, his lovely wife Erin as the force behind the throne (seriously, she’s why stuff gets done), and a variety of talented freelancers and creatives. Their first game, Tiny Frontiers, is campaigning on Kickstarter right now.
Alan Bahr is a game designer best known for Planet Mercenary: The Roleplaying Game, (14th highest funded Kickstarter RPG of all time!) based on the space opera webcomic Schlock Mercenary.
You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does Tiny Frontiers sound awesome to you? Do you have more questions about the gamemaking process? Let us know in the comments section below!