Brothers Matt and Brian James have created an original game with “Red Aegis,” combining the adventure of an RPG like “Dungeons and Dragons” with the worldbuilding of a strategy game like “Civilization.”
“You play not just one hero, but successive generations of heroes, forging a dynasty that spans millennia–from the setting’s ancient past all the way to the distant future,” said Brian James, lead designer on Red Aegis. This unique approach has already netted them nearly $50,000 on Kickstarter, twice their original goal, with a week left in the project.
A mash-up of such disparate genres requires a precise system. And strategy games are known for their complex trees of skills, research, etc. “Aegis” is not so different. James said, “A complete game of ’Red Aegis’ is played out over ten sessions. As the game advances from one age to the next, your tribe improves in one of three core disciplines: Science, Arcana, or Faith. Improve science and gain access to new weapon technologies; improve arcane to unlock new and more powerful schools of magic, and so on.”
But even with the dose of history-spanning strategy, the game is still an RPG. And that meant keeping the game approachable and personal. “Despite the grand scale of the game, it remains the actions of individual heroes that drive the story. We wanted to design a system where actions of your character in one age would become the legendary exploits sung of during the next age,” said James. “The fabled heroes of the setting are not characters from a novel or mighty NPCs detailed in a sourcebook. The legendary heroes of Red Aegis are YOU and players at your game table.”
After careers as freelancers, working for such heavy hitters as Wizards of the Coast on “Dungeons and Dragons,” and Paizo Publishing on “Pathfinder,” Brian James and his brother Matt formed Vorpal Games earlier this year to release Red Aegis. Brian James said, “When it came to publishing our first independent product, we immediately agreed to self-publish ’Red Aegis.’ One drawback of being a freelance game designer is that you do not have any say over how your manuscript text will be presented in the final book. For Red Aegis we want complete freedom to design and layout the book as we see fit.”
“Red Aegis” is just the latest Kickstarter successful for RPGs, which has seen a lot of attention in the last few years. “Kickstarter has spurred a resurgence of indie tabletop roleplaying games. All you need to do is look at the fantastically successful kickstarter campaigns that funded over the last year: “FATE Core” by Evil Hat Publishing, “Numenera” by Monte Cook Games, “Dungeon World” by Sage Kobold Productions, and, most recently, “Primeval Thule” by Sasquatch Game Studios. We would be thrilled for Red Aegis to enjoy even a fraction of the success of any of those games,” said James.
Beyond those lauded games, this year has also seen the likes of a new edition of “Shadowrun,” “Call of Cthulhu,” “Star Wars,” and high-profile new comer “13th Age.” Despite such a wealth of content for RPG players, James is not worried. “Matt and I knew going into this endeavor that our game would be a niche product with a limited print run, and we’re absolutely fine with that,” said James. “Our Kickstarter backers seem to be particularly keen on our innovative millennia-spanning, multi-generational gameplay. After the game is in the hands of gamers worldwide, we hope that positive word of mouth will help ’Red Aegis’ stand out in the crowd.”
Ultimately, James hopes the game succeeds on its own terms, and then perhaps find other kinds of success in the future. Afterall, the game was inspired not only by “D&D,” but by computer strategy game series “Civilization.” James said, “Our foremost concern is to deliver a high quality core gamebook, followed by the supplemental material we’re offering in our digital boxed set. Only after we succeed on delivering that promise will be turn our focus to other, grander, schemes. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I think a variation of Red Aegis would make a fantastic video game.”
[Images courtesy of Vorpal Games]