Chamomile Has Adventures has often featured in the weekly Kickstarter roundup in the RPG news summary Routinely Itemised: RPGs. There’s a reason for that. Chamomile will launch 12 Kickstarters in 12 months.
Impossible? Not yet; we’re (nearly – 5th book) at the halfway point; the campaigns are picking up more backers and are being delivered. Chamomile is going strong. The latest campaign, launched last night, is for the D&D 5e-powered Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles which is a zine about summoning angels, writing pantheons, and roleplaying the religious.
Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles has funded already. You can see the pitch video below or check the progress at the project page.
I’ve first-hand experience of playing a paladin in a world that seemed to have forgotten about religion and not by design, so the premises of this guide speaks to me.
Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles is the ultimate guide to the divine in D&D, whether as a faithful acolyte of the gods or figuring out how to actually use gods in your campaign. Learn the secrets that only spirits know and summon powerful outsiders to fight beside you with the new Summoner class, or transform from aasimar, Divine Soul, or similarly divinely aligned being into a full-on celestial yourself with the new angel transformation, giving you a radiant aura, resilience against radiant and lightning damage, flight, and the ability to tell instantly when a creature is lying to you.
It’s only $5 on a pledge to get your name in the credits and a digital copy of the 5e zine. At $12, a physical copy is added to the rewards. The book is signed at $25, although that tier is limited in numbers.
Digital fulfilment is expected to happen in September, which the paper copy shipping in October.
Chamomile Has Adventures on 12 Kickstarters in 12 months
I had the chance to talk to game designer Chamomile just before the launch of Thaemin’s Guide and was curious about how the year-long project was going.
You’re doing 12 Kickstarters in 12 months, so I guess my first question is; why?
I did three Kickstarter projects before any of the Chamomile’s Guide to Everything series, spaced out across 2018-2020. The latest of them, Dark Lord, was really successful, but as I started approaching the end of the fulfillment process in January of 2021 and started looking around for my next project, I realized that whatever my new project was, very few people casually scrolling Kickstarter would associate it with any of my earlier ones, because it had been six months already, would be even longer by the time I actually got the Kickstarter set up and approved, and while I think Dark Lord is an interesting and well-designed game, it definitely wasn’t the kind of industry-shattering titan that people would still be talking about six months later (unless they happened to be playing a game of it, but tabletop RPG logistics being what they are, the simple truth is that most people aren’t able to actually play an RPG until months or years after they buy it, if at all).
So, I decided I needed to focus on small projects that could be released very close to one another, so that people from the last one would remember who I am when I told them about another. At first I was planning on nine, but I later expanded it to twelve in order to bring it up to a full year.
How’s it going? Is it what you expected, easier, harder, or did you take a leap into the dark?
Going into this, I was really nervous about my ability to write content fast enough to have a new sourcebook out every week, but that’s turned out to be surprisingly doable. It’s not easy, but I never feel like I’m desperately struggling against a deadline to get it done. Getting people to actually look at the project feels like a struggle, though. Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, all seem to be totally unresponsive unless you are already massively popular. The vast majority of my backers always come from Kickstarter itself, which is usually not a sign of a healthy campaign, but nothing I do ever seems to push the needle at all. Maybe this article will make it budge.
Can you tell us a bit about Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles? The Kickstarter should be live by the time we hit publish on this, so perhaps something that sums up Thaemin’s Guide that’s not mentioned in the Kickstarter Story?
I put a lot of effort into summing up the guides in the Kickstarter campaigns, so asking me for stuff that’s not in the Kickstarter Story is always gonna be the leftovers. There’s a lot of worldbuilding and roleplaying advice split up into bite-size articles, though, and there’s not enough room to include all of those in a video script without turning it into a slog. For example, I don’t think any of the update videos mention the article about using a church as a quest hub, not just for religious characters, but for the whole party.
Thaemin’s Guide introduces a Summoner class to D&D. What should DMs keep in mind before allowing it into their games?
Don’t be scared of giving your players awesome things. It’s 5e, so action economy is king and there’s nothing the Summoner can call up that you can’t put down with thirty goblin archers until level 17, by which point your villains have hopefully figured out how to recruit some dark elves or something.
The Guides so far have had a magical theme. Is magic in tabletop games of particular interest to you? Or just an area D&D 5e can improve on?
If you look at the thirteen base classes in 5e so far, only three of them are fully non-magical, and that’s if you’re generous enough to count the Barbarian, even though most of the Barbarian sub-classes are blatantly magical in nature. D&D is about mostly-magical people fighting mostly-magical monsters, and while non-magical adventurers certainly aren’t unheard of, they are exceptions rather than the rule. I do plan to have a book that focuses on martial characters at some point, and Brac’s Guide to Piracy wasn’t particularly magic-focused.
You’re doing well, hundreds of backers with each project so far, and you even have three of the Guides available on DriveThruRPG. What’s the secret?
In terms of content production, I start with a list of about 8-10 things that would be cool to do in D&D, and then I write rules for them. For example, one of the things for Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles was that it would be cool to be able to summon angels. I didn’t have a class or a spell or a feat in mind when I sat down to write it, just that angel summoning is cool and I want to be able to do it. Once I start going down the list, I start asking myself “how is angel summoning going to work? How can I balance that?” It was pretty quickly clear that summoning is too powerful to be a spell or a feat, something that a Cleric or Wizard can do on top of all their other class features. Earlier minion abilities in the series, like Bianca’s golems or Natalia’s skeletons, didn’t need a full class devoted to them because golems and especially skeletons make sense as relatively weak cannon fodder who don’t necessarily define the character who summons them. But when you summon a deva to the battlefield? That *has* to be your main thing. So the secret in terms of making good content, I think, is start with a cool idea, figure out how to make it work, and don’t let it become any less cool in the process of writing rules for it. Obviously, you don’t want to totally lose track of game balance, but err on the side of too powerful – the GM can always add more monsters.
In terms of production capacity, I had a few Kickstarters that I took completely one at a time to make sure I had each stage of crowdfunding, production, and fulfillment figured out before I started trying to string them together like this, and I was able to use that understanding to stagger production so that one book is being written while another is being Kickstarter while another is shipping physical copies.
In terms of marketing, I dunno. Kickstarter’s algorithm is responsible for basically all of my marketing success, with every effort to get people to back from Reddit or Twitter or whatever consistently ending in failure. You’re supposed to have 50/50 Kickstarter versus external backers, but I’m almost more like 75% Kickstarter, with the external backers mostly coming from people who backed one of my older Kickstarters and joined my Discord afterwards. If Thaemin’s Guide does much better than Brac’s, then that means the marketing secret turned out to be “do something cool enough that Geek Native wants to write about it.”
How much work have you done on the Guides due to launch on Kickstarter later this year? Can you reveal anything more about them here?
I never write more than one book ahead. I’m almost certain the next book in the series will be Celawyn’s Guide to Wilderness and Fey, but that’s because Kickstarting Celawyn’s in July means it’ll be digitally delivered in August and should arrive on people’s doorsteps in September, just in time for that new fey-themed adventure path Wizards of the Coast is making. Normally I wouldn’t commit to a specific concept until I was already outlining it and had decided there were enough ideas here to get a full ‘zine out of.
With that said, each of the twelve symbols on the sigil I post at the end of each Kickstarter corresponds to a specific concept that will have a book associated with it by the end of the series, provided the series doesn’t collapse before then. The dragon in the center will be the finale.
Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with?
A lot of people. Although I think one of the biggest strengths of my series is that it’s the unified vision of one person, with each part designed to be a compatible and familiar whole, one of the weaknesses is that there’s less a diversity of ideas. An involved collaboration would help alleviate the weakness without compromising the strength. Some of the monsters in Thaemin’s Guide to Gods and Miracles were written by Andrew Judd, whose recognizable-yet-bizarre creations I love. I’m hoping to collaborate a bit with Christopher Pearce, the guy who wrote the short fiction for Dark Lord, on Celawyn’s Guide to Wilderness and Fey.
The person who has most influenced by design is easily Matt Colville, who has been working on projects that were heavy influences on my RPG design since long before I knew his name (Decipher’s Lord of the Rings was my first roleplaying game and Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction was a huge influence on how I thought about game design in general – I still use “North Korea” or “NK” to refer to always-hostile factions who can be used as a reliable antagonist in games or adventures that feature factional politics), but while I wouldn’t say no to a collaboration with someone like him, I can’t escape the feeling that I’d probably be redundant.
I’m very good at taking cool and bizarre ideas and turning them into actual rules, settings, and systems that people can play, so my ideal collaborator would be, like, Brandon Sanderson or Gerald Brom or someone. Someone whose main talents aren’t in design at all, but who have lots of interesting ideas to be converted.
Lastly, would you do it again? What happens in 2022?
I’ve avoided making plans for 2022 until I have solid evidence that 2021 will be a success. Four successful Kickstarters in a row, each more successful than the last, might seem like pretty decisive evidence, but I’m still less than halfway in, and it’s still possible that interest will peak and then collapse before I reach the end of the series.
Even if everything goes great for all of 2021, I probably won’t do twelve in 2022. Honestly, twelve books per year is probably too many, if I kept it up indefinitely then I think a lot of people would struggle to keep up with remembering all the new content and it would get easy to lose track of what all options are available, something which I feel made 3rd edition very hard to both play and GM. You’d constantly have people bringing up new or obscure splat books, or sometimes even using options from splatbooks you’d never even heard of before and they just assumed this was okay because you allowed other splatbooks.
If I did one splatbook per month indefinitely, I think I’d reach that point eventually, the point where most people can’t keep track of just how much content I’ve released and thus have no idea what they’re getting into when they say “anything from Chamomile’s Guide to Everything is allowed.” Even if everything is balanced and cool, the world can get a dream-like jumbled quality to it, where it seems like absolutely anything might show up, which is cool early on, but when it keeps on happening even in the middle and end of a campaign, it starts to feel like there’s no pace at all, like the story is meandering and lost and that anything that’s happened might be rendered irrelevant by the arrival of some new power or threat that totally changes the course of the story.
I still want to release regularly enough to keep people interested, though. I’ll probably pull back to something like eight releases per year, roughly one every six weeks. A lot of it will depend on what kind of content I decide to produce. Maybe seven adventures and then a sandbox meta-structure as the eighth release or something.
Geek Native believes Celawyn’s Guide to Wilderness and Fey is the current favourite for being the next official project from Chamomile Has Adventures.
What are your thoughts? Strike up a discussion and leave a comment below.