Over the last 6 months my time has been dominated by the ongoing project with SFR, working towards the Kickstarter Campaign for Dragon Dice. While this was happening I've been working on a number of other projects in the background, including some RPG content writing with Modiphius and Red Scar, but also, on something else that's had me giddy with excitement. As of this week, following a successful Kickstarter, my work with SFR is done and my gaze is now firmly on this new venture. So let me tell you a story...

A few months ago I was approached by Word Forge Games (WFG from here on in), whom I have a good working relationship with already, regarding a potential project that they knew would be of great interest to me. Awesome! I’m in. What’s the project?

First, lets set the scene…

When I was a teenager, many many moons ago, I was an avid role-player. Many RPG systems dominated my mind for years on end, but none more so than SLA Industries. If you don’t know, SLA is a dark (very dark) future RPG set in an alien world full of strange creatures, underhand politics and big guns. I loved SLA to a point that even now, 20 years after I discovered it, I still consider it to be the greatest RPG of all time.

So, you can imagine how I felt when I was asked, “how do you fancy being a part of Nightfall Games and the future of SLA Industries?”. Errrrrr…..!!!

As many of you may know, after an extended period of radio silence, Nightfall Games (just Nightfall, from here on in) teamed up with a new company called, Daruma Productions (just Daruma, from here on in) to produce a miniatures game in the SLA setting alongside a new source book (Cannibal Sector 1 – a little confusing as a book of the same title came out years ago, but that’s off-point) which provides setting and content for both the miniatures game and the RPG. Daruma was made up of 4 people, 2 from Nightfall and 2 others. Between them, they would cover all aspects of the creative and business parts of running a Kickstarter Campaign. 

The campaign did well, funding and unlocking loads of content.

At this point I need to state that I am neither at liberty to, or wish to disclose any more information than the following statement: Something went wrong post-campaign. What, at this point it’s impossible to say, but the funds ran out prior to the competition of the project and despite those involved trying to keep the process going, it slowly ground to a halt.

This is where WFG and I come in. WFG were one of the companies who were casting the beautiful miniatures for Daruma. WFG have a history of casting high quality minis for more companies than you can shake a stick at and the guys there know a thing or two about miniature games. WFG had an opportunity to step in and help salvage the SLA Industries: Cannibal Sector 1 Kickstarter project which was looking to be on the edge of a very unfortunate collapse. Mark Rapson, the man at the top of WFG asked me to be involved for a couple of reasons – 1. He trusts my judgement having worked together in the past, 2. He knows I have experience as a project manager, and 3. He knows I’m a huge SLA fan with a lot of knowledge about the world and setting. I was in.

Now, the exact details of how we were going to help are a little complex but the summary is that WFG agree to invest in Nightfall, providing the capital required to fulfil as much of the Kickstarter as possible. In return, WFG gets a share in Nightfall Games (who hold the IP for the SLA world) and thus providing them with a future return on SLA Industries products produced by Nightfall Games. Seems like a good deal to me for both parties. Importantly, as a Kickstarter user, the focus was to get the games into the backer’s hands despite the campaign running out of money. I felt good about this. In the same light, I would be investing a metric cack-load of time in helping to complete the outstanding stuff from the campaign and keep things rolling, again in return I’d get a (considerably smaller) share in Nightfall Games. It was an investment in time and energy to do something good, with faith that it would pay off in the future. I was OK with this.

So, discussions, discussions, meetings, discussions…. The deal is done. I am a director of Nightfall Games. I meet the guys who created the game that dominated my teenage years. The guys are awesome. I’m inspired, excited and passionate about making this work. Knowing this will be a part of my future gives me a warm feeling inside. I know that people will be pissed when they hear the news about Dauma, but for every angry person, I hoped there would be one who saw that people were trying to help.

Fast forward a few days and things look like they are suddenly going to go wrong. Daruma decide that any deal that can be made is not in their best interests, the groundwork we laid gets undone and it looks again like backers might not get their games despite us trying to line this up. We rally together and try to salvage something but it looks bleak. There is a glimmer of hope after taking council, that our plans to absorb the costs and fulfil the campaign will be possible after all so we announce the fact (the announcement can be seen on the KS campaign updates – I posted it so it has my name under it, but it was drafted by all four directors of Nightfall). That announcement is met with mixed feedback as expected, but then Daruma make their own announcement.

Now, I don't want to relive the next few days but basically, tension was very high for all those involved and the process had become very stressful. As such it's fair to say that the announcement from Daruma was very emotional. I don’t blame anyone for lashing out and saying some angry words when reputation and livelihood is on the line. At the time I was a little rocked, but looking back, it was understandable and I'm sympathetic to how it went down. As I was not around during the campaign, it is not my place to comment on the accusations made. I am a straight-up guy and I base my decisions on the facts I have at hand. I consider people good until proven otherwise and I speak my mind. 

That update unfortunately made it apparent that Nightfall and Daruma were totally unaligned on how best to proceed. It suddenly became very clear that while I and WFG had hoped we could aid this process and save the campaign, we now looked like we were part of a (rather thematic for SLA) undercover conspiracy

I want to state for the record, that my involvement in this situation has only 2 motives:

  1. To fulfil the Kickstarter to backers
  2. To be a part of the future of SLA Industries

At this point things felt very unstable. We were unsure if we were going to be able to work things out and had concerns that the stock and assets that had already been completed would get tied up in a legal process that meant no one could have anything.

Fast forward a few weeks of radio silence, a few weeks of angry backers wanting an answer, and a few weeks of Nightfall directors pulling their hair out (and I don't have much to pull on!)… then, finally things start to click into place. The remaining voice behind Daruma starts the liquidation process, they grant permission to Nightfall to use the existing rules for the miniatures game in whatever capacity best suits the game, they allow WFG to start the process of stocktaking the existing assets and manage the campaign process. It’s been a rough ride, but it looks like this is going to work. The new 4-man Nightfall team, along with WFG can finally take steps to get this done and out to backers. The creative process still ticks away in the background, with Dave pushing through the last few art pieces needed for the book and Jared polishing the layout. The rendering of miniatures starts up again too! This is going to happen! Through the negativity and doubt, from both backers and myself, it finally looks as though we are on the road to deliver Cannibal Sector 1.

I've spent the last two weeks furiously overhauling the already excellent rules for the CS1 miniatures game, tightening the language, bringing the accuracies of the text inline with the existing 'cannon' of SLA Industries and refining a few of the concepts that have been explored in the rules. I'm really excited to announce that this process is largely complete and we'll be in a place to release these rules very soon.

I’m excited to see this project fulfilled. I’m sure we’ll encounter further road blocks as the liquidation process unfolds, but, I’m also sure that as a team we’ll do what it takes to make SLA survive. After this project is finished up, I’m looking forward to turning my eye to RPG content for the game that defined my teenage years! Long live SLA Industries!

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Big love,

Chris ‘Shep’ Shepperson

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