State of the Hat: March 2014

This was supposed to go out in December! But things happened. Things! You know. Snow things. Holiday things. Plagues from beyond the outer dar— uhhh, checking my notes here, not supposed to mention that last one. Things! So we’re doing this now that we’re less, um, thingy.

What Is This Exactly, Then?

This is where Fred takes a look at everything going on at the company and gives y’all a quick run-down of where it’s all at, where it’s going, and (when possible) when it’ll be happening. Keep in mind we won’t have release dates on a ton of this stuff, because we find that those create an artificial pressure to put something out before it’s done.

That said, do not despair. We’re maintaining a better pace than we ever have, and that’s thanks largely to the leadership team that the Fate Core Kickstarter campaign helped make possible at the start of 2013. And that is an excellent place to start all this. So…

The Head Is More Than Fred

While co-founder Rob Donoghue remains a big part of the creative heart of Evil Hat, heading up the occasional project or simply joining the team as a collaborator, the “head” under the Hat — the running of the company, focused on business concerns — up through the end of 2012 has largely been Fred Hicks.

With the explosion of possibility (and funding) that the Fate Core Kickstarter brought us in early 2013, we had to change all that. The Head job had probably been bigger than Fred for a while prior to then, but it hadn’t really had the spurs put to it; with Fate Core’s success, Evil Hat was poised to fail without some folks coming on to help with that work.

Sean Nittner has taken the reins of all our projects as our primary, lead project manager. Adding Sean to the company has been mission-critical — we were able to release all the physical rewards for the Fate Core Kickstarter in the same calendar year as the campaign. That simply wouldn’t have happened without Sean, or as we like to think of him, He Who Owns The Calendar. Sean is also why we’re able to run many more projects simultaneously than we have at any other point in the company’s history. He’s been an incredible addition to the team, and is the mechanic that keeps the engine humming here at the Hat.

Chris Hanrahan had already been working with Fred on some elements of marketing and business development prior to 2013. We formalized his role in 2012 as part of the run-up to the Kickstarter phase of the company. In 2013, we realized that we needed to focus him on business development (the work of figuring out where the company needs to go, who it needs to work with, and what sort of products it needs to develop, if we want to grow) exclusively. Combining marketing and “bizdev” was resulting in an overfull plate. So we found a marketer!

Carrie Harris came in as our marketing head. Young-Adult author by day, she’s been working with Sean to get our old stuff on the website updated with new content, writing copy for the site and product packaging, refining our message through the email newsletter and elsewhere, running convention relations, and more. Best of all she’s come in with a great attitude about the kind work we’re doing at the Hat, and she knows how to keep our messages fun and friendly, the way we hope they’ve always been.

So What’s Up With Fate Core?

At the beginning of this year, the things Patreon had been doing to Fred’s brain finally bubbled to the surface and he suggested to the Head that we explore the possibility of doing a Patreon campaign as a way of creating a budget and “subscription plan” for Fate Adventures & Worlds. We launched it a few weeks later and it’s been a big success! Its first adventure/setting, Venture City Stories, is due out later this month in full color with some gorgeous art by Tazio Bettin thanks entirely to the support given by the campaign’s patrons. We’ll be releasing the results on DriveThru and elsewhere as pay-what-you-want material, but if you want to get an inside view and simply commit to pay-what-you-want in advance, the Patreon campaign is the way to do it. Thanks everyone for making this real!

As a part of this we’ve also been running a search for more Fate-savvy writers. Deadline for applications is just a few days away, on March 15th, so if you’re a straggler but interested, get your application in soon. We’ve found six or so folks through the process so far, out of many dozens of applications, with more likely to emerge from the sent-back-for-revisions set. Together with the Patreon, we’ve created both a steady source of new Fate Core content and a training ground for bringing more talented, creative authors under the Hat, improving our overall ability to deliver on more stuff in the years to come. Big win!

There are also some other projects that are going to be powered by Fate Core and Fate Accelerated over the next two years (at least), which we’ll get into in more detail below.

So What’s Up With Atomic Robo?

The Atomic Robo RPG had to change horses mid-stream while it was in the layout phase due to life things (things!), which has added a few months to the timetable. That said it’s coming along great under the steady hand of layout rockstar Adam Jury. We’re down to the final 60 pages or so of the book and giving each sticky-wicket a close look. After layout is done we’ll get this thing indexed, that laid out, and push it forward into production. We’re hoping this means just another few months tops before Robo hits the shelves.

We have some other Robo ideas in the works, but they’re all at an early stage. Stay tuned later this year for more news.

So What’s Up With the Dresden Files?

The long-in-development, gigantic Paranet Papers supplement for the Dresden Files RPG should be coming out this year. It’s in layout right now, with Daniel Solis doing the work there — he’s got a lot of things on his plate, though (including helping us with Zeppelin Attack’s graphic design, see below), so it doesn’t have his exclusive attention yet. We’ve got this on a plan where we’ll be making the art happen after the layout is done, so we’re spending our art dollars intelligently and efficiently. After that art comes in and gets into the layout, we’ll be ready to publish this thing. Adding all that up that makes it look like a late-this-year thing, but we’re going to do what we can to beat that estimate.

One of the things we’re excited to have ready for this project is the art for the “endpapers” of the book — that’s the piece of paper that covers the inside of the cover of a book and joins it to the main block. The incredibly talented Mika Kuloda did this, and it just blew us away. Here’s a preview.

"The Wall" for the Paranet Papers. Click to modestly embiggen the image.

“The Wall” for the Paranet Papers. Click to modestly embiggen the image.

 

Backers of the Fate Core kickstarter may remember us talking about Dresden Files Accelerated, a Dresden Files RPG based on Fate Accelerated. What we promised then was that development on that project — a lighter-weight alternative RPG to our “big books” Dresden Files RPG, not a replacement — would start in 2014. And it has! The team is assembled and moving forward under the creative leadership of Leonard Balsera. That said, just because we said we’d start development in 2014 doesn’t mean that it’ll be released in 2014. You know us: we like to Get It Right. And with that in mind we encourage you to think of DFAE (as we’ve come to abbreviate it) as a 2015 thing.

We also have a couple other Dresden Files related ideas currently in the works. We’ll make noise about ’em when they’re ready. :)

So What’s Up With Spirit of the Century?

We just wrapped the Kickstarter for Zeppelin Attack!, a lean, pulp-themed, fightin’ deck-builder that pits the shadowy masterminds of the Spirit of the Century setting against one another in an all-out, zeppelin-powered aerial brawl for world domination. The campaign went great, funding both the core game and an atomic-powered expansion. Files are off to the manufacturer, and we’re targeting a release somewhere around August-or-so of this year.

We’re also developing two new RPGs for our continually expanding Spirit of the Century setting.

The first is Young Centurions. Set against the backdrop of the Great War (sharing the same timeline as our Sally Slick young adult novels) and using Fate Accelerated at its core, this is a young adult adventure game featuring the teenagers who will one day rise as the Centurions of the Century Club. The setting is written, and the system elements are getting polished. We’re expecting to launch a playtest of this in about a month.

The second is Shadow of the Century. This “requires Fate Core to play” supplement moves the Spirit of the Century timeline forward to 1984, where the Century Club has been driven underground and the Shadows rule the day. It’s everything you loved about action movies and television in the 80′s blended together with the crazy pulp vibe of the SotC setting. We’ve got a great team at work on this, and development proceeds apace. There are still several months of work ahead in all likelihood before this moves on to next steps.

We’re also continuing to work on the Spirit of the Century fiction line.

Brian Clevinger continues to whittle away at the Benjamin Hu vehicle The Pharaoh of Hong Kong when he’s not working on the Atomic Robo comic (which, admittedly, eats the lion’s share of his time). C.E. Murphy’s Stone’s Throe featuring Amelia Stone is working its way through the editing process as we speak; revisions ahead, more editing, and then production. No timeline yet, but this is definitely the one that’s “up next”. Chuck Wendig’s wrap-up of the Dinocalypse Trilogy, Dinocalypse Forever, should be coming to us for editing around mid-year, putting it on a towards-the-end-of-the-year timeline for release. And we’re also working with Carrie Harris to develop the ideas for the next Sally Slick novel, Sally Slick and the Miniature Menace.

More clicking. More embiggening. Art by Christian St. Pierre.

So What’s Up With Don’t Rest Your Head?

We resurrected the Don’t Hack This Game project, a supplement/anthology of various hacks and twists on the setting and system of Don’t Rest Your Head, this past year. Ryan Macklin continues to work on the edits to get this one into shape, but we don’t have a timeline for release yet.

Don't Hack This Game cover art by George Cotronis. Make with the clicky.

Don’t Hack This Game cover art by George Cotronis. Make with the clicky.

 

We’ve also got a board game for the Don’t Rest Your Head setting, tentatively titled Don’t Turn Your Back, in development. The design is solid but we need to get some breathing room and time to figure out how best to take on a new board game project. Both Race to Adventure and Zeppelin Attack have been great experiences for us, but they’ve also shown us where we need to grow to better support board and card games in our catalog. More news on Don’t Turn Your Back once we’re ready.

So What’s Up With All The Rest?

Lots is up! Here’s the skinny, in brief.

  • The War of Ashes RPG, merging cute fuzzy bloodthirsty warriors, Fate Accelerated, and (optional) miniatures combat in the style of tabletop fantasy RPGs, is making big strides in development. Sophie Lagacé has done the lion’s share of the work on this, and we’ve added Mike Olson to the team to help make the minis side of things really sing. This should be a fun one, with lots of eye-poppingly gorgeous color art from the folks at ZombieSmith.
  • Do: Fate of the Flying Temple — an adaptation and evolution of Daniel Solis’s Do setting to Fate Accelerated centered around the Pilgrims left behind when the Flying Temple vanishes, written by Mark Diaz Truman — has gone into playtesting, which is expected to run through mid-April.
  • Bubblegumshoe — our take on the GUMSHOE system featuring teenage private eyes, relationship mechanics, and simplified abilities — has gone into second-round playtest as of, well, today! We’re looking for that testing period to run through the end of April. More work will follow. Authors Kenneth Hite, Lisa Steele, and Emily Care Boss, are poised to make the most of the feedback as it comes in.
  • Designers and Dragons — Shannon Appelcline’s in-depth history of the RPG industry, 1970-2009 — is in various states of editing and layout. We’re looking at this four-volume series as what might be our next Kickstarter campaign, but we need to make sure things are a bit closer to done before we can think about launching. This is all a fascinating read! If you’re interested in where we came from as a hobby, it’s can’t-miss stuff.
  • Mystery Project R — We’re in initial discussions about a licensed game using Fate that’ll be set in a near-future science ficitonal setting with a sort of player-vs-player vibe to it. Things are looking positive, but we’re not a point where we’re allowed to say more. Hey, it’s not a State of the Hat if we don’t tease y’all a little, right?

Designers and Dragons

Will Evil Hat Be At GenCon?

Yup, we sure will — more of us than is typical: all of the Head should be there, as well as a number of our authors and editors. Our stuff will be sold at the Indie Press Revolution booth as usual, and we’re also going to be hosting a few panels. Plus, Dresden Files author Jim Butcher will be there too as the big fiction-author guest of honor! We might be sponsoring a thing or two in the fiction track with this in mind, because Jim.

We hope to see you there for the 2 or 3 seconds the whirlwind of GenCon will afford us, and our fingers are crossed for a showing at the ENnies this year. Stay tuned!

You Gots Questions, We Gots Answers

You probably have some questions for us! We’d like the opportunity to answer them. Please ask them in the comments and we’ll say what we can as soon as we can. We love questions and want to make little baby answers with them. Ask. Seriously, ask. *stares at you, unblinking*