Every role player sooner or later dreams about publishing his own adventures and settings. Savage Worlds Fans know this feeling very well, since it is tremendously easy to create materials for Savage Worlds. And you can also be an official license of the brand!
The almost endeless list of setting is there to testify it and many Savage publishers and authors started their journey as Fan. We asked some thoughts on this matter to Mornè Schapp, creator of Winter Eternal Savage Worlds Setting, and we speaked about his experience as “self-made publisher”.
Hello Mornè. Thank you for having agreed to answers our questions! For the Italian Savage Worlds Fans who does not already know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi everyone. Thanks for sending the questions, Fabio. Well, I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a graphic designer by day, but I love creating rpg material, books, adventures and maps. I’ve been gaming for about 14 years now and love the role-playing game hobby. As a husband and father I do find less time to game these days, but I always make time for our rpg projects, even if I have to write in bed late at night, on my phone.
What will be the “elevator pitch” of Winter Eternal? Could you tell us more about the setting?
I always point out that Winter Eternal is not a gritty, post apocalyptic setting. The really bad stuff happened many years ago. People survived and is starting to prosper again. For an elevator pitch I would say this: Winter Eternal is about a world who’s sun exploded. Now it is a sputtering orange ball, barely heating the world. Those on the “night side” survived the flames, though many died in earthquakes and falling meteors. Then the world started freezing. Nature Wardens started camps for the survivors and used their magic to grow food. The settings starts more than a hundred years later. The camps are now giant cities. Heated and lit by magic, different races are crowded together. Large enclosed roads, called Archways, connect these cities and suddenly work and prosperity has returned to the world…
How did you discover Savage Worlds? Which aspect of SW caught your interest in the first place?
I was looking for a system I could write the setting in, without having to worry about lots of rules and additional stuff getting in the way. I also heard that Pinnacle offered an option to become a licensee. So I looked at the core book and it was perfect. I could use the rules as is and concentrate on the world, the races and the flavor.
Could you tell us more about the creative process behind Winter Eternal? What were your sources of inspiration?
As a kid I wondered what it would be like to go to school and live our daily lives without a sun. That idea stayed with me and when I started gaming, I begin thinking about a fantasy world without a sun. I’m a huge Eberron fan and I wanted to convey the same idea of a living and busy world, not a place with locations that only come alive when the players enters it. I also picture the cities almost like a fantasy version of the Mega cities you find in Judge Dredd.
Which kind of relation exists between Winter Eternal and SW? Did you write the setting with Savage Worlds rules as a reference from the start? Do you think that Winter Eternal may use another rules system, keeping intact the atmosphere and the game experience?
When I started writing I had grand ideas about new Edges and Hindrances. But speaking to the wise men and women in the Savage Worlds communities (the best online communities in my opinion), I realized that I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Winter Eternal added very few Edges and Hindrances in the end. It is 90% flavor and ideas to use the setting. Because of that, I think the setting could be easily ported to other rule sets. I would love to have a 5e Dungeons and Dragons version of Winter Eternal one day.
When and how did you come to the decision of self publishing your setting? What are in your experience the necessary steps?
There was never a way that I would be able to have many books printed, that is far beyond my budget. DrivethruRPG makes it pretty easy to get your work out there. I worked hard on the layout and text of the book and they do the rest if it is a pdf or a print on demand book. Take 2 studios also helped me to get the book in stores. In my opinion you need a quality product and someone who can help you get your files print ready. The print on demand optio works great. The hardback of Winter Eternal just came out and it looks beautiful!
Which kind of drawbacks and problems have you encountered, both in the creation and publication process?
Artwork is very expensive and can be difficult to get on a small budget. I was lucky in that I could do the layout, maps and some art myself. My best friend is very creative and he helped a lot. I ran a small crowd funding project for artwork to get the rest.
I loved chatting to artists while searching for cool art. For weeks I went through Deviantart and mailed every artist whose work I liked. Many asked more than I could afford, but I met some great people.I also tried some local sites and found a few artists ready to help. I had to settle for smaller or less detailed pieces, since they cost less and I had a small budget to work with. It took months, but in the end I was very happy and proud with the art in the book.
Crowdfunding can be difficult, especially to an unknown and small company. The crowdfunding project was for artwork and it worked very well. I spent a month or more chatting about my setting and getting the word out. I had to use Indiegogo, since Kickstarter does not allow many countries outside the US and Europe to use them for crowdfunding projects. I find that not many are willing to back something outside Kickstarter, but I did manage to reach my goal. I did get a lot of help from friends and family though.
I kept my goal small (only $2000) and I had to work hard to stretch the money to get all the artwork I wanted. One of the best pieces of advice I received before starting, was to not have a perk you must mail and handle myself. Shipping can get very expensive. I used DrivethruRPG to get the books to all the backers and it worked great. Some other perks was to get your likeness in the book and people really like that. Every character face in the book is a backer, friend or family member, I even have my wife and daughter in there. 🙂
I also ran into problems with my text. When I was done writing, the first editor missed a lot of mistakes. That ended up a big negative in reviews and I had get a re-edit the text.
Time is always a problem, especially if you are doing this on the side. That is something you just have to push through if you want to get your product out.
Have you tried to submit your setting to other publishers before? What was the answer?
I looked into having Winter Eternal converted to Pathfinder, but to get it done is a bit expensive for now. So I haven’t submitted to other publishers yet. We are busy with a few other projects, so that will have to happen later.
Do you think that Fan contents (usually free) based on official products and settings can help the rpg market or in the end this can result in “unfair competition” with the published authors, eventually damaging or weakening the original brand?
It is flattering to see that fans like your work enough that they want to share adventures and the like based on your world. I think as a whole it could help, if the fan content helped get the official books to new players as well.
Can you tell us something about your upcoming projects?
The second Winter Eternal Adventure Guide about what happens inside the cities, is almost ready to go to the editor. Lots of new info, locations, bestiary and 2 Savage Tales to play. If you downloaded our pay what you want adventure, Fuhgeddaboudit, you would know what fun adventure it is. The feedback has been great and the actual play reports have been hilarious. Our next plug and play adventure is almost done. I’m working on the character sheets, while my business partner, Eric Lamoureux is finishing up the stats for the pregenerated characters. We hope that gamers will like this new adventure just as much. I can’t say much more, but we will start sharing more info soon. Then, we are working on a super secret project that I can’t say too much about yet. It is a new, fun and crazy setting and we are running very early playtest at the moment. Everybody seems to like it a lot so far. That is our main aim and it is great hearing the players laugh and have fun with this setting. More info later.
Thank you so much Mornè for your time! Hoping that this interview could bolster and encourage many other Savage authors and publishers out there. Good luck with your future projects!
Thanks for giving me the chance to chat to you guys. If you have any questions or remarks, feel free to contact me on G+.
The interview was edited for space costrains (See Italian Version)
Fabio Bottari, Antonio Rossetti, Richard Mardoc