We'd like to thank Craig Campbell of NerdBurger Games for talking to us today. He's created some great games in the past, including Murders & Acquisitions, and has a long RPG freelancer resume including Dungeon magazine and Pathfinder Society adventures. I first heard of NerdBurger Games on the podcast, Podcast: The Wreckening by The Wrecking Crew. They were talking about M&A quite a bit at one point, and it sounds like a fantastic game. You can find CAPERS on Kickstarter.
Craig, did I miss anything you think our readers should know about?
That covers things pretty well.
1) CAPERS, tell us how this game is different? What's the setting and why would I want to run this game?
CAPERS is a super-powered game of gangsters in the Roaring Twenties. You play gangsters and bootleggers making their fortunes in a world that’s sort of coming into its own following the Great War.
The setting is one of action, adventure, virtue, and vice where characters are risking their lives to get rich and flaunt their power.
Alternatively, you can portray members of law enforcement who are fighting what is, essentially, a losing battle. They’re understaffed and underfunded and illegal booze (as well as gambling, prostitution, and racketeering) are everywhere. For them, it’s more about fighting the battle than it is winning the war.
The game delves into an era that isn’t represented in quite this way very often. The gangster heyday of the 1920s, at least as portrayed in CAPERS, is a romanticized ideal of the decade. It’s filled with colorful characters, action, and intrigue which is further “ramped up” by the existence of people with extraordinary abilities.
2) Instead of dice, you use cards for the resolution mechanic in CAPERS. Tell us what your thought process was in choosing this mechanic. Another game I love, Ki-Khanga, also uses cards, so I'm seeing something I'd hazard to call a trend in the game community toward trying something other than dice.
While the world of CAPERS is built around Prohibition, illegal gambling is a prominent aspect in the organized crime of the era. I was looking for a hook in the mechanical sense that would compliment the narrative hook of gangsters with super-powers. I’d worked in dice systems before and created my own for Murders & Acquisitions. My mind floated to playing cards and I toyed with some ideas. Ultimately, I settled into a card-flipping mechanic that plays as sort of a gambling, press-your-luck system.
The characters are taking risks in their lives…they’re gambling with their lives. The players are, in turn, using a mechanical system that makes each trait check a bit of a gamble as they make active choices about whether to keep the card they have or flip for a new one, hoping to be rewarded, but risking failure.
3) If you had one reason to suggest someone back the Kickstarter, what would that one thing be?
If you dig supers, you know that there are a lot of supers games out there. Many of them are built on the modern day and the well-known tropes of superHEROES. CAPERS is one of a handful of supers games that flips the expected dynamics of supers games into something different. And it touches on an era that doesn’t get a lot of love in RPGs outside of noir and Cthulhu games.
4) I know a lot of the art on the Kickstarter demonstrates a cross-section of people represented and I take that as a good sign for the product overall. How, if at all, are you hoping to make the 1920's era of CAPERS an inclusive product?
The RPG hobby, industry, and community are important to me. For a long time, it was spun through with LOTS of straight, cis, white guys. And many of the games were representative of that. In the past several years, there has been a strong movement to make the hobby more inclusive, to welcome ALL types of people. To give voice to all types of designers. To give all types of players an experience they can enjoy and that they identify with or at least that invites them in.
I feel there are only things to be gained by broadening the appeal of RPGs in all ways. CAPERS certainly has its share of white guy NPCs, particularly because there are so many well-known historic figures of the era that are white guys. But it’s also filled with gender-swaps, race-flips, and a variety of other NPCs that fall outside the white guy range. It’s an alternate history game that supposes, “Wouldn’t it be great if every type of person could be a nefarious gangster or a stalwart law-dog?” And the text, NPCs, and art reflect that.
5) Do you anticipate creating any other supplements or other products for either M&A or CAPERS?
Each of these games are intended to be standalone games with everything you need to play in one book. I’ve created a little Holiday Bonus PDF for M&A and I’m doing a monthly, 1-page PDF supplement for M&A called M&A Memos. I expect CAPERS will see some simple support products in the future.
I’m not averse to offering larger support and game/setting expansion products, but it’s more a matter of whether the game’s popularity and fanbase can support it. I’m open to all possibilities, but I have to see how CAPERS sells first.
6) What's the next thing for NerdBurger Games?
I’m about 90% sure that the next game will be Die Laughing. That’s a short-play, no-prep, GM-less story game where everyone portrays a character in a horror comedy movie. Everyone is going to die. It’s just a matter of when and how funny you can make it. The game features a reducing dice pool mechanic that functions as a countdown to the character’s death as well as ways for you to remain involved in and influencing the story even after your character is dead…or a zombie…or a sexy vampire.
Beyond that, I have an idea for a very simple family game that parents can play with their kids. And there’s nugget of an idea for a mid-apocalypse game with a very unique twist that I think people will dig.
Josh is the intrepid Chief Operations Officer of High Level Games. With 20 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. He runs, www.keepontheheathlands.com to support his gaming projects. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s running a Changing Breeds game. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C. You can also find Josh’s other published adventures here and here.
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games