Dorkland!: First up, how has the Kickstarter experience been for you so far? What do you feel you have done especially well? What might or would you change?
Mike Penny: I’ve been a fan of Kickstarter for a year or so, have backed a couple dozen projects and have like I am sure many people thought ‘I could do that’. Well now we are most of the way through and it does look like we will have made it but it’s been a bumpy ride and I have much more sympathy for those successful / unsuccessful Kickstarters I have watched. It has been an immensely exciting project but somewhat all consuming, there’s been some high and low points; the highs have to be the fantastic support we have received I think the lows have been ‘no comments’: we’ve had hardly any comments / questions which I was looking forward to!
The most challenging part has been creation of traffic, Kickstarter is a great platform but you don’t get pledges from them, almost all of our pledges have been via social media links; the best advice I got very early in our campaign was ‘in crowd-funding the crowd comes before the fund for a very important reason’ meaning build your own crowd first; which we did go out in earnest to create from an early stage and it has proved to be successful.
As for changing something not sure I would, lots of people have said that our initial campaign and video were too ‘amateur’ and I agree, we aren’t video of typesetting professionals and our Kickstarter was very much about getting the funding for these professionals for the end product but saying that if we come back to Kickstarter I think we would get some seed funding first for such things on the campaign as it does seem to be ‘expected’
Overall a very positive experience I feel and the support has been tremendous.
DL: How did Orin Rakatha come to be, all those years ago?
MP: Our Live Action Roleplaying campaign started on a world called Murandir; for a while at the time (and this is almost 30 years ago) we had a permanent fixed site for our adventures and most of the LARP games took place there. When the time came to give back the lease on the permanent site and look to the future the decision was made to write a new world to mark this change.
There was also a want to create a world that worked perfectly for the LARP environment, addressing a challenge that we call ‘Suspension of Disbelief’ in that when we LARP we want to minimize the number of times that we have to accept something ‘as it is’ because we cannot physically create it in the real world (something which table-top is not limited by). So we wrote a world that had rules supporting the concept; one of the easiest methods of describing this is via the ‘Laws of Orin Rakatha’, there is an actual law on the lands described as follows: “The Law of Gathering: The people shall not travel the land in groups larger than twenty individuals”, the LARP reason for this is although we might want to we could stage enormous battles every other weekend, our LARP events had 10-15 players and a similar number of crew (monsters) so we wrote a law that made sense of this in-character. The cool thing about transference of these laws to the RPG is that this means that the most powerful unit on the world of Orin Rakatha is the ‘adventuring party’ and here they become the armies of the towers of people they represent. I’ll cover a bit more about this in the question about sentience below.
The original spark of Orin Rakatha came from a fairly small tight knit group but the development over the years has been handled by a large team of referees and like all the best campaigns but on the tabletop or not by huge input from the players and crew.
DL: What are some of the challenges with bringing a setting with such a long history to print?
MP: The two biggest challenges we are firstly living up to the expectations of those people that have actually been in the world of Orin Rakatha, there are now words with which you can replace a live experience (but we do feel that these live experiences will create, colour and infuse our words) and frankly we want to make sure that those people feel its great, as they will be our harshest critics, get it right for them and we feel it will work for the wider audience.
Secondly the volume of the editing task we have to undertake, there is a lot of stuff to compound into words suitable for a book, and a lot of it was created prior to all the common sharing mechanisms we take for granted today. We haven’t underestimated this task hence why there are 6 of us on the team and we’ve allowed enough time in our plan to do the primary edit (and re-write where needed as not everything fits from LARP to RPG) to meet our current delivery targets.
DL: What unique benefits or challenges, if any, are there in bringing Orin Rakatha back from the LARP to the tabletop?
MP: A fringe benefit to us is that as the campaign has developed over such a long time, there has never been one steward of the history and it has never been collected into one place, this will re-energise our LARP world as much as it will launch the RPG product. As for challenges on top of the ‘we already have a lot of people to impress’ I think it will sit around ‘crunch’ or the stats and rules not covered by the story element, as we can’t directly transfer the LARP stats to the RPG (as the LARP has it’s own unique rule set); so we do have to re-stat everything to suit a couple of the key existing fantasy campaign rules sets, we are currently targeting Pathfinder, the OGL direct, Fate and potential Savage Worlds; this is the area with the largest amount of work we have to do ourselves but we are experienced gamers and are looking forward to it!
DL: Orin Rakatha is a fantasy setting and there is a bit of info about it on the Kickstarter page, but how does it really differentiate itself from existing fantasy settings? What would get existing fantasy-game players psyched up about it?
MP: For me it’s simple to answer this, characterization and plot! This is a long story-line and the characters have actually been played by real people and been ‘experienced’ by hundreds of others. It’s a bit like re-writing a major fantasy novel, after you’ve seen the film but also asked all the audience what they thought about both the book and the film.
DL: 'Sentience' is something mentioned in the description of the game -- what are these semi-sentient lands and sentient towers?
MP: So I am not going to give too much away here! But simply put the land is alive and controlled in a mystical way, it responds to the actions of others to uphold the laws.
The structures in which each of the groups of peoples (small nations) live are called towers and these towers are linked to the mystical power that controls the land, protect the people from the mists that transform the land and also are unique in their own way, in that they are larger on the insider than they appear and have internal climate (which is where all food production and mundane activities take place), you cannot harm a person within a tower nor can you lay siege to them. They are a completely safe haven; but to retain a tower your people must have sufficient power and wealth to do so, this is measured together and known as ‘status’ on Orin Rakatha; so they must send out ‘adventuring groups’ to maintain their status (or in game terms gain xp and gold!) I said I’d talk some more here about how Orin Rakatha came to be; one of the elements we wanted a ‘reason’ for under the ‘suspension of disbelief’ was to answer this question ‘When adventuring as a low level party how come we hardly ever meet monsters that are much higher level than we are? And when we meet some lower level monsters or ones that we out-number how come they just don’t take one look at our cool armour and magic weapons and run away?’ So here the sentient nature of the land actually ‘responds’ to effectively marshal not only its own forces but also the opposing sides of towered people so that much of the time they meet others of a similar rank or level (not always GM’s!) The Mystics achieve this by the pathways being physically changed to redirect those that are travelling across the lands to ‘meet’ in a particular way. The nature of random encounters are also influenced by the lands sentience, many of the indigenous creatures have a simple culture and believe in reincarnation to such an extent that they are actually willing to fight against greater more powerful odds because they will be ‘brought back by the mists as a more powerful creature’
DL: What are some of the inspirations behind Orin Rakatha?
MP: The team and the players of Heroquest LARP developed as the fantasy genre developed in the UK, early on it was 'Dungeons & Dragons' & 'Lord of the Rings' and it's moved over the years as the fantasy genre has developed and become more accessible to everyone. But the single most significant influence during the creation of Orin Rakatha has been our players; most GM's will know this secret - the players come up with all the best plot ;0)
DL: Who or what were the Ikarthians?
MP: The Ikarthians are, or more correctly were, one of the towered people of Orin Rakatha (as described earlier all the towers are akin to a small nation of a few thousand people); they are part of the pre-history of the world (in that they date from a time prior to the player character history) and were in a traumatic incident all destroyed in a single heart-beat. You’ll find out more about them in the starter module ‘Burning Night’ and if we meet our stretch targets the campaign module ‘The Shadow of the Ikarthians’ will reveal all their story).
DL: The art on the Kickstarter page (which I quite enjoy) seems to give off a bit of a grimdark vibe -- what exactly is the tone of the setting and how is it expressed?
MP: So there are elves, orcs, wizards, goblins, warriors and priests so it is in one way a traditional high fantasy setting but we do agree that it has a gritty more real edge to it, fundamentally this comes from the way the story was written, so firstly in the more traditional sense the story was written down by the referee organizing the LARP events, but what defines Orin Rakatha is the nature of the story development, in that it has been played out and the story developed by hundreds of people both taking part in events and writing and developing the plot as it went along. So as we commute this into the books you'll get the flavour of a number of peoples perspectives on the story. So in short it's a high fantasy campaign but with a real edge!
DL: Lastly, what is your favorite part of Orin Rakatha and why?
MP: For me it has to be the lands and towers around an area called the Ikarthian Triangle, this is made of of 3 towers; one was destroyed long ago (and some of its history is revealed in our first module Burning Night) and remains haunted by its once inhabitants the Ikarthian people; who were all tragically slain in the same moment (the whole tower of 1000's of people all at the same time), and of the other two I really love the Labyrinth of Xenos a tower of enchanters that create golems and clockwork constructs to carry out their will and whom are all linked to a single consciousness. This triangle of towers is one of the few places on Orin Rakatha where the open land is protected from the mists and it is also therefore a hub for the undesirables that have now tower sanctuary to call their home.
We here at Dorkland would like to thank Mike for his time in answering these questions and if you would like to know more about Orin Rakatha please check out their Kickstarter page -- only a couple of days left on it!
Tweet Follow @dorkland