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I'm Ray M., indie tabletop game designer and owner of Higher Grounds Publishing. My Kickstarter for Warsong: Second Edition is live, right now! Ask me anything!

HigherGroundsGames
Dec 5, 2017

Check out our Warsong Second Edition Kickstarter now!

I've had several successful Kickstarters and published a number of great games. We publish core books as well as supplements for Pathfinder, Fate Core, and even Vampire: The Masquerade.

Warsong: Second Edition is a game about choice and consequences. About following your destiny or choosing free will. 

Who I Am: I'm a father of two awesome kids and a bit of a traveler. I started Higher Grounds Publishing about five years ago with some tiny PC games, and we published out first tabletop RPG, Warsong: Fall Of Eldorande (first edition) about 3 years ago. 

Other Projects: I've worked on other projects including the board games To Grandmothers House and Paragons: Battle Ready, scheduled to Kickstart in 2018 and 2019. I've published a few supplements for Pathfinder including the Super Retro Sourcebook and Blade-Siren Pathfinder Class Guide. We have a large focus on the Horror Cinema genre, beginning with the starter guide for our upcoming Slasher RPG for Fate Core.

Find us on Twitter and Facebook or visit our website.

Join our mailing list, too!


HigherGroundsGames says:

This AMA will end Dec 13, 2017 4PM EST


Update (Dec 5, 5:14PM EST):

HigherGroundsGames says:

Also consider supporting us on our Patreon Page!

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Conversation (43)

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Longtime RPGer here, hello! ;) The Viziers sound super-powerful, with their fate-shaping abilities. How is the game balanced so that the Neverborn, Quicksilver and mortals are also significant? Or is it more like Ars Magica where the Viziers are the center of the action and other races are more for support characters?

Dec 12, 12:28PM EST0

Other than the ones you have published, what games would you consider your personal favorites?

Dec 7, 5:36PM EST0

Outside of Higher Grounds games, I have a whole lot of love for gaming in general. My tastes vary wildly - even moreso when I compare video games to tabletop. 

For video games, my favorites are currently Paladins, Dead By Daylight. Some of my all-time favorite video games were Final Fantasy XV, Dying Light and Borderlands 2. I'm currently playing Horizon: Zero Dawn and, if the game keeps moving in the direction that it has, it might hit the top spot.

For tabletop games, my favorite board game, hands-down, is Betrayal at the House on the Hill. It's fun, and I really enjoy the PvP aspect. Small World is also really, really fun.

For tabletop rpgs, I love Classic World of Darkness and Shadowrun the most. The story that White Wolf created, and the world in which it takes place, was what I cut my teeth on as far as rpgs go, and the story was incredibly immersive. That's why Higher grounds has been working on some stuff for the storyteller's vault. Keep an eye out for it! 

Dec 8, 10:06AM EST0

Are your games child-friendly or are these only recommended for adults?

Dec 7, 10:57AM EST0

Thanks for the question!We carry some child-friendly games, such as the supplements created for use with Pathfinder. Those are the Blade-Siren Class Guide and the Super Retro Sourcebook

Others, such as Slasher, are more adult-oriented.

Warsong Second Edition is probably best described as young adult to adult.

Dec 7, 2:46PM EST0

Do you make and publish video games for gaming consoles or for mobile devices and computers?

Dec 7, 4:58AM EST0

Currently, we do not have any console or mobile games in production. 

Dec 7, 8:59AM EST0

Where do you prefer playing games - on your TV, computer, smartphone or tablet?

Dec 6, 12:51PM EST0

Tabletop.

Dec 6, 2:01PM EST0

Would you recommend a horror cinema genre to everyone? If your answer is yes, can you please answer why?

Dec 6, 12:09PM EST0

I love horror, but movie preference is subjective. Just a matter of taste. I've been a fan of it since I was a kid. I like it just like I like Halloween as my favorite holiday. It's just fun to watch.

Dec 6, 2:01PM EST0

If you were to live your life all over again, would you still choose to create games?

Dec 6, 3:02AM EST0

Absolutely.

I mentioned this in another post, but I graduated from my university with a bachelor's in biology and psychology as a pre-med student. I even took the MCAT and did well enough to be accepted into a medical school.

Life changed, and so did my mind. 

I think that, if I lived my life over again, I would have simply started doing this earlier, and not wasted so much of my time doing other things.

Last edited @ Dec 6, 9:28AM EST.
Dec 6, 9:27AM EST0

Is there any school or online college that offer formal education on how to create games?

Dec 6, 1:14AM EST0

I spent a great deal of time in college. Something many people don't know about me is that I was pre-med at my university. I was studying to be a trauma physician. During my years in school, I saw that there were a few game design courses, and I even took a few. There are even majors out there and schools dedicated to creating video games. I can't vouch for those. The classes that I took were okay, but I've learned more simply by making games than I did with those college credits. I graduated with a degree in biology and took game design courses as a side project. At the time, I had no idea that I was going to be doing it as a career later. 

Personally, it seems like game design companies, whether it be tabletop or video game design, prefer skill over a degree. They want to see that you can make games. 

Dec 6, 9:25AM EST0

Do you sometimes feel like giving up when it takes too long for a game you released to be successful?

Dec 6, 12:50AM EST0

I think that the urge to quit is common among all game designers. Taking a game from idea to production is a long and arduous process that takes its toll with late nights, early mornings, constant writing, revisions and everything else that goes into it. I would say that the more I do this, the less often those feelings occur but yes, I do sometimes feel like giving up. I think everyone does, from time to time. For me, the key is just to remember that those feelings are transient. I've also learned that those feelings tend to occur most when I haven't taken a break in weeks, haven't gotten enough sleep and I'm absolutely exhausted. When I need a pick-me-up, I'll watch motivational videos (a few of my favorites are here and here), or visit r/motivation

Dec 6, 9:21AM EST0

Among all the games you have created already, what is the most popular and most successful?

Dec 6, 12:29AM EST0

Thanks for the question, Michael!

The most popular game that Higher grounds has produced has been Slasher RPG, hands down. People really seemed to enjoy playing a horror game on Halloween, and that trend continued into the holidays. People seem to really enjoy the PvP opportunities. No tabletop RPG has actively put players against players like that game does. Due to its popularity, we're actually releasing an Expanded & Revised Edition in 2018. 

Keep an eye out for that Kickstarter! If you're interested in that or other future products make sure to sign up for our mailing list.

Last edited @ Dec 6, 9:13AM EST.
Dec 6, 9:06AM EST0

Do you offer free trial periods for new games such as the one you’re about to release?

Dec 5, 6:12PM EST0

For Warsong, there is no free trial. I may offer a quick-start after publishing.

Dec 5, 8:08PM EST0

What difference does it make when you ask people to pledge on Kickstarter compared to just investing in this new game on your own?

Dec 5, 6:05PM EST0

Thanks for the question!The Kickstarter platform delivers to a demographic that I would not have otherwise reached. It also gives new players something to look forward to and exposes them to the new games before they're released. 

I sell games on my own platforms once they're published as well, so Kickstarter does just what the moniker states. It helps kickstart the product and the funds help give the game more polish oand value on the final product. 

Dec 5, 6:10PM EST0

How long does it usually take to create one game with full-on graphics, sounds, and animations?

Dec 5, 5:29PM EST0

From idea to publish date, I've seen basic video games take a few years. Tabletop games take anywhere between a year or two, to about five years. It depends on the complexity of the game, and how capable the team is.

Dec 5, 5:43PM EST0

Are you open to submission of new games? If so, how can you be reached?

Dec 5, 6:44AM EST1

Thanks for your question!Higher Grounds Publishing is always open to pitches, especially for new tabletop rpgs and supplements from writers. You can check out how to pitch your idea to The Grounds by following this link.

Or visit this URL: http://highergroundsgames.com/work

Dec 5, 11:29AM EST0

What are some of the best tips you can give to aspiring game creators?

Dec 5, 5:47AM EST1

Thanks for the question, Tamara!

The industry is hard. It's over-stuffed with great games and writers, and the market is kind of small for what's out there. Still, if you've got a passion for it, and the drive to make it happen, it's worth pursuing.

The biggest tip, I would say, is to always be developing your games. Always be on the look-out for great artists that jive with your vision. Always be writing and creating and forming new ideas. Do new things that bring those ideas out of you. The most important thing is never, ever stop. It's a hard, uphill road and you're probably not going to see much from it for a long while after you start. Writing at a Stephen King pace every day for years before your final product is a rough go, but you can't quit.

I'd say those are the most important tips. Always be writing and creating, and never quit.

Aside from that, get a group of people together. People who will bounce your ideas, test your games and even people in the industry who are already doing what you want. Never try to do this on your own. It won't work. The gaming industry is an industry built around people. 

Unfortunately, another tip I would have to give would be to make sure you develop a tough skin. Gamers are notoriously difficult to please, and there are a few out there who take massive offense to even minor grievances, and will announce it from atop their own mountain, and no matter how small that mountain may actually be, a bad review is still a kick in the teeth. Learn from bad reviews, take constructive criticism and USE IT to fix what you can and keep moving forward. Never let a naysayer bring you down. Because there will be naysayers. 

As far as getting your foot in the door, really.. you just have to pitch. Send those letters out to game publishers. Tell them your ideas and be passionate. Eventually, someone will say yes. Stephen King (he's one of my role-models, so I use him a lot in questions like this) had a nail in his wall in which he kept his rejection letters. So many rejection letters came in that he had to exchange the nail for a railroad spike, or something similar, just to hold the weight. 

Like I said. It's an uphill battle. Just keep at it. Make something you're proud of. Make something that YOU would want to play.

Dec 5, 1:26PM EST0

How do you start promoting video games that you publish in your company?

Dec 5, 5:16AM EST1

Thanks for your question!

A marketing plan is important. The key is to get people playing your games. If it's a good game, one person will turn into many. There is a quote that I follow, and it's served me well.

"If I spend most of my time making a great product and less time telling people about it, the product will speak for itself." 

Dec 5, 1:28PM EST0

Aside from purchasing the software for your games, is there a way to get a hard copy of it such as on a CD?

Dec 5, 4:50AM EST0

Thanks, William!

Right now, the only hard copies we have are for our tabletop rpgs such as Warsong (First Edition) or Slasher RPG (First Edition). Otherwise, everything we do is digital.

Dec 5, 1:30PM EST0

What is the difference between the first edition and the second edition of Warsong?

Dec 5, 3:45AM EST0

Thanks for the question, Misty!

The differences are VAST between first edition and second edition.  The biggest difference players will notice is that it's run on a totally different engine. Warsong 1e was written using modifier Pathfinder rules while 2e uses Fate Core. We had a lot of reasons for the switch, but in the end, the Pathfinder mechanics felt confining when we tried to make Warsong 1e, and we believe that stuffing such a massive game into those rules really hurt the game overall. With Fate Core, it's much more cinematic, and gives us a lot more room to "spread our wings" with the game, and really explore the deeper secrets and stories that we just couldn't do with a d20. 

Second Edition also distills quite a few of the more vague rules that first edition glossed over, such as the dark angles to sorcery as well as manipulating fate and what destiny was. 

Sorcery has become a much darker thing in second edition, with capabilities similar in scope to manipulating destiny. Sorcery taps into vast, cosmic powers where you act as a conduit. One wrong guesture, one mis-uttered syllable and you might unleash that power in unforseen ways, or even become possessed by something that makes its home in those dark, primordial places beyond the stars. Sorcery, in that sense, takes on a very H.P. Lovecraft feel while shaping destiny becomes far more tangible in second edition as well, allowing the characters to really take the reigns of the plot and bend it. Destiny becomes almost like a character unto itself in Second Edition, using the Bronze Rule of Fate Core. Spoiler: You can even kill it.

In the end, Second Edition took the best parts of first edition and distilled them and made them much more easy to digest and understand, and discarded what made no sense. We took all of the criticism, feedback and playtesting and turned it into a much more viable, playable and enjoyable game.  

Dec 5, 1:40PM EST0

Do you have any online workshops or seminars where you share your best practices and tips?

Dec 5, 3:23AM EST1

Higher Grounds will be holding seminars within the near future. You can keep an eye out for them by signing up to our mailing list, keeping an eye on our website and blog, or keeping in touch with our Facebook or Twitter. We try to keep everyone informed of what we're doing! 

I hope all of those links I added work. 

Last edited @ Dec 5, 1:56PM EST.
Dec 5, 1:55PM EST0

If this is already the second edition, what was the first edition of Warsong like and was it successful?

Dec 4, 11:00PM EST1

Thanks for the question!

The first edition is described a bit in another post, but I'll expand on it a bit here. 

Warsong: The Fall Of Eldorande (Warsong First Edition) was the first tabletop role-playing game that Higher grounds ever produced, and while it wasn't a failure by any means, it did more good as a learning tool than it did anything else. While I encourage anyone interested to take a look at the book, read and play it, the company has grown quite a bit in the years since we published the first edition of Warsong and our "newness" really shows in the book. Even the choices of font makes me want to cry, sometimes.

The ideas for Warsong First Edition were big ones that the industry hasn't really seen before. The intention was to create a game where the characters could literally break the game, and rewrite the plot for themselves, and then explore the consequences that come from that. Unfortunately, we tried to stuff a huge game like that into mechanics that didn't really fit the game's themes. 

For all of those reasons and more, Higher Grounds felt that the game deserved a revisit by a more seasoned and experienced team. It was a great idea, and the setting had some real gems hidden inside. So, we bounced around ideas on how we could take the game and produce something better from it. That's how Warsong Second Edition came to be.

We decided that the game would take place on the ancient super-continent of Lemuria, while in first edition the world looks much more like Earth and is called Eldorande. In first edition, the nations broke a treaty and are at war, but in second edition there would is a power vacuum occuring when our story takes place and the characters enter within which the Grand Emperor is succumbing to old age, and the factions that were held in a forced peace by the Emperor's sorcery and will were now beginning to battle for the soon-to-be-empty Chrysanethemum Throne. With the Thousand-Year-Peace, however, the ancient forces that protected Lemuria, including the Ancient Viziers, have long since passed away, so the fate of the world literally rests in the hands of the characters. From that, we devised the game-breaking mechanics and story, taking the best parts from first edition and moving them into a much more suitable system.

First edition had rules for creating Viziers (the destiny-shapers), as well as the Quick-Silvers (shapeshifters) and mortals. Second Edition has similar rules as well, but far more defined, and even adds a few other types of playable characters into the mix, such as the undead Neverborn.

Last edited @ Dec 5, 2:19PM EST.
Dec 5, 2:15PM EST0

Do you go through a market study and extensive research prior to deciding what kind of game you should be releasing?

Dec 4, 5:08AM EST0

Thank you for the question!

We do, yes.

Last edited @ Dec 5, 2:21PM EST.
Dec 5, 2:21PM EST0

What is that determining factor when you can say that a game you made has already achieved its peak success?

Dec 4, 1:51AM EST0

Thank you for the question!

There really are a lot of factors that go along with that, and it's not so cut and dry as deciding whether or not a game is done and on its downhill slope. Many factors can take already-published games to new heights even after long-term hibernation, so to speak. Supplements, add-ons, sudden exposure. It all factors in.

Dec 5, 2:23PM EST0
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