April’s RPG Publisher Spotlight is on Outland Arts.
DriveThruRPG’s system tells me we’re approaching 80 items with Outland Arts as the publisher. That’s impressive.
At the helm is William McAusland, the creative director, author, designer and illustrator there. Yes, one of those mutant lords with all the talents!
Patreons get to nominate and get to vote for candidates and who to feature.
It’s always great to get those companies and people involved, and that’s what happened here. William has made time for us.
An introduction to Outland Arts
I’ve already mentioned mutant lord once in this introduction, and we’ll soon find out why I awkwardly squeezed that in!
Who are Outland Arts?
A private company owned by William McAusland with content and edits, extra art and services provided by freelancers and fans of the Outland System Game Mechanic which The Mutant Epoch uses.
How and why did you get into RPG publishing?
I always intended to publish novels and TTRPGs from a very young age, so learned to draw and publish PDFs and books to accommodate this obsession. I’ve crafted dozens of game systems and worlds, and test played them for countless hours with dozens of groups, but The Mutant Epoch RPG came out on top and was based on a novel series I’ve been working on for decades. In short, the novels came first, and the RPG second. The Novels should come out in 2023 if all goes well.
How does running Outland Arts projects compare to your work for Goodman Games?
I became a freelance illustrator to fund my publishing habits, but now am pretty much just freelancing part time for Goodman Games because they’re cool guys and I still need to feed the kids. Working with Joseph and Matt, the art director keeps my stuff fresh, allows me to experiment with subject matter and mediums, stay focused, and frankly, it feels good to be part of a team.
What do you think you’re best known for?
I hope I am best known for The Mutant Epoch RPG, but many tabletop RPG players know my art for Goodman Games and are surprised to know I also publish my own game.
What would you like to be best known for?
The Mutant Epoch RPG and Novels
The price of mutants
In this section, we linger on tabletop RPGs’ economics and pricing strategy. I’ve been part of behind the scenes conversations with many publishers and know it’s a bit of a dark art. And yet, Outland and William seem to have a crystal clear strategy.
What makes a good RPG product?
A core book that contains everything the GM needs to get playing, with plenty of free online content to keep fans engaged. Also, a community where fans can meet up and share home brewed house rules, creatures, treasure items and new powers (spells or mutations) and meet up in person or virtually to play games.
You’ve been releasing Monday Mutants as Pay What You Want downloads. Why that price point?
As a publisher, you need to remind fans you’re still alive, that more content is on the way, otherwise some gamers move on to new products by other publishers pretty fast. And, a lot of fans of the Mutant Epoch, referred to as ‘Epochians’, are friends of mine in-person locally, or from online interactions, and I want them to entertain them and thank them for supporting an indie publishers. Also, Game masters need nasty new freaks to surprise their players with, as a lot of the players also own the TME hub rules so know all the critters included in the core book’s built-in bestiary.
Do you find people pay the suggested price?
Many make a donation, and often higher than the suggested 99 cents. Most don’t donate, however, and with inflation going through the roof and the cost of living on the climb, I want to ensure that my people, tabletop gamers, can get something cool if they’re on a tight budget.
Indie publishers need to offer free or PWYW content to spread the word and keep fans. Many people learn about the Mutant Epoch from this sort of free or pay what you want content, and TME has a back catalog of 12 books now, and new books well along in the publishing process. Also, I confess I put a great huge ass ad in the back of each of my PDFs, which brings awareness to the vast epic of The Mutant Epoch milieu.
That said, after I get this second batch of 12 Monday Mutants released, I am going to create 6 more muties and combine them all (24+6) into a book for sale in print and PDF, which can lead to a sale for anyone who relay digs the game. I like print books at my game table, so need them compiled and bound in a cover, anyway.
More than mutants: The Outland System
The Mutant Epoch uses its own mechanics: The Outland System. I ask William about it but there’s also a two-minute introduction to it on Outland Arts’ site.
Can you give us a crash course in the Outland System?
A crash course? Hmmm, I need to do a series of YouTube videos after the next big release to cover the basics.
In short, the system uses all the beloved polyhedron dice, but character generation and combat use d100. In combat, a target has a defense value (DV), and the attacker uses their strike value (SV). To hit an opponent, you subtract the target’s DV from your PC’s strike value, and a d100 is rolled.
You want low numbers on this roll to hit, with a 01-05 always a hit regardless of modifiers and cover, and a 01 a critical hit. At the opposite end, if you roll 95-00 it’s always a miss, with the 00 on the d100 roll being a fumble.
Damage is based on the weapon, the attacker’s strength, and other factors, and different dice are used to inflict harm on the unfortunate target. Of note, the trait of Endurance is also your character’s hit points, so you’ll want to hope for a good roll on this stat. There are eight traits: Endurance, Strength, Agility, Accuracy, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception and Appearance. These traits can go up, especially your endurance, as you go up in ‘rank’. Ranks are like levels, but happen quickly at the early stages if your character survives their first adventure or two, becomes a veteran of sorts, but ranks do not result in such drastic changes in your character as say the level gain of most RPGs. There is more to it than that, of course, and there are rules explanation at our website.
How has demand for Hand Crafted Dungeons been?
Handcrafted Dungeons are one of my favorite things to work on. Hand sculpting, model making and painting them is sheer pleasure and a chance to turn off all the computers and work standing up. I have another set of basic Dungeon tiles and two cavern sets mostly sculpted.
Their sales were not what I had hoped for and this is partly because I could not get their print quality up to my satisfaction using the print option at Drivethrurpg or at Amazon’s Kindle Print service. Without print sales via print on demand model, I could not make enough money to justify the massive time expenditure required to get the other sets done — at least not yet.
After the Expansion Rules come out for the Mutant Epoch, then the novel series, I will finalize a fantasy tabletop miniatures dungeon crawling game that I have been running with my kids for years. I am a huge miniature collector and would like to say I am also a painter, but due to time constraints, can’t get the hobby time I’d like. This relates to the handcrafted dungeon because when I release the miniatures rules game, I will also publish adventures that use the handcrafted dungeons tiles, adding additional sets and promoting them as complimentary products. The miniatures game is a pet project, an artistic outlet and not something I expect to be a profitable business venture… just something I can use to justify my miniature addiction and the hours spend painting these wonderful things.
Besides Hand Crafted Dungeons, my third main line of products is Fantasy Clip Inks, a series of 20 sets of fantasy stock art for use by authors, game designers and game masters who need visuals when playing virtual games. These sell really well for me, especially when people buy the bundle deal. I have more of these in the works, too, and have been building up a collection of finished inks to create a few new spot art sets.
Has the RPG hobby/industry changed much since you started out?
I guess the industry has changed in the 20 years I’ve been at this. It seems to me that people are gaming more, and when a person can’t get to an in-person dice chucking game, then they just take it online, and when they can’t play RPGs, they play video games. The whole hobby has become more mainstream than I ever expected, and there are plenty of people who’d like to sit down at a game because of new animated shows, and entertainment like Critical Role.
And well, with everything going on in the world these days, people need a little retreat into something fantastic after a hard day of work or study, more than ever. Tabletop games are dollar for dollar, the most affordable pastime and entertainment value out there. All you need is a pencil, some funny dice, paper, and a single core book and you can not only play immersive games for hours and hours, but create cultures, new creatures and entire worlds.
I think this is the best time to get into the hobby as far as somebody looking for entertainment and escape, but also a great time for talented creatives from all disciplines to get involved in product creation. Becoming an indie publisher has never been better, and with stock art, freelancers, online communities and collaborations, store fronts like drivethrurpg, IPR or gumroad.com, and the ability to get your books set up as print on demand products for free, I think a motivated person could make their own adventures or whole RPG systems into a viable side hustle.
Asking the publisher of The Mutant Epoch RPG feels appropriate. Regular readers will know that it’s a question I always ask but rarely get a good answer to. The mutant lord has been generous and gifted us with a detailed response this time.
What’s next for Outland Arts?
Well, besides the Monday Mutants and compilation for those freaks, the next big thing that the Epochian community is eagerly expecting is the long overdue TME Expansion Rules. This is basically gonna be part 2 of the Mutant Epoch Hub Rules, with many new character types including plant characters, parasites, unique androids and robots, abominations, rebuilts, grafters, nanoborgs and more, along with a ton new mutations and cybernetic implants, way more relics and expanded rules for critical hits. It’s taken me years and years to get as far as we have, and will include writing and creations from the fan community itself. I must have it out this year.
After the expansion rules, it’s back to the novel series. To where it all began. To the genesis of this entire project and the reason I ever learned to write or draw. These novels are now written and in second draft but awaiting a few editorial passes and the cover illustrations, maps and graphic elements. They are on hold while the expansion rules are in progress.
Also, for The Mutant Epoch RPG, we have Blood Road and Nuke Tower written and in play test. These are two large adventures for higher ranked PCs. The amount of stuff in progress is actually daunting, and as mentioned above, I also have the Handcrafted Dungeons, Fantasy Clip Inks, a fantasy RPG using the Outland System, and the miniatures game on the back burner. Projects which, besides my freelancing deadlines, taunt me day and night and keep me working 12-hour days.
- Outland Arts’ website.
- Outland Arts on Zazzle.
- Outland Arts on Facebook.
- Outland Arts on Twitter.
- Outland Arts on Ko-fi.
- Outland Arts on Discord.
- Outland Arts on Instagram.
- Outland Arts on Amazon.
- Outland Arts on DriveThruRPG.
Latest Outland Arts products
Outland Arts are on DTRPG, so we can use that system to sort through the catalogue for recent changes. Here’s what we get;
- 18th April 2022: Monday Mutants 14: Wave Lurker
- 11th April 2022: Monday Mutants 13: Dust Fiend.
- 7th December 2021: Dog Daze.
- 10th November 2021: Monday Mutants 12: Masher.
- 2nd November 2021: Monday Mutants 11: Wriggle-Hack.
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