AfterEarth: The Fall is a post-apocalyptic fantasy roleplaying game that hopes to rely on player contributions to help build the world the game will be set in. If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, many of the aspects of the RPG, such as NPCs, art, monsters, and races will be put to a vote of the backers, with the design team taking over to fulfill the whims of those that contributed to the game. Oh, and every backer – no matter what pledge level – gets at least a PDF of the book.
Jeremy Penter, the designer of AfterEarth: The Fall, explained that the idea of user contributions fit naturally because of the amount of content they had already created. “When it comes to voting on game events, creatures, and otherwise I would say that the idea came from the fact that we had a ton of content already created,” Penter explained over e-mail, “That amount of content let us identify exact areas where contributors could vote and allowed us to plan accordingly. We knew what we had and what we didn’t have and both areas could be opened for contribution”
The setting of the game, Penter said, would allow the backers to add almost anything to the world. “The time-line for the world is quite recent, after the disaster, and many events are unclear to those living in the world.” Penter said. “Letting contributors vote on those events and plot points felt natural and allowed them to have real impact. What we did not want was for shallow or uneventful aspects of the game to be voted on or created. If we were going to offer something we wanted to offer almost everything.”
The completed book for AfterEarth: The Fall will run approximately 300 pages and is based on a system called “The Subterfuge System” that uses a deck of cards to determine the outcomes of player actions. “Unlike most dice, cards – and how they are shown to the group or GM – can be very different.” Penter said when explaining the system. “For example, cards can be shown horizontally or vertically to the GM; they can be shown to the group and player; they can even be hidden from the player themselves, and any combination of those ways yet always involving the player. A single card, not counting the suit, color, odd/even, and exact number has a good deal of possibilities just by how it is displayed. Also cards are all the same shape and are used for everything in the game. So using different dice for different abilities, or specific numbers of dice for specific checks is not an instant tell for a player. In many rules systems this is an instant alert to a player that something specific MAY be occurring in the game, even if the GM is hiding the roll behind a screen. If the GM happens to grab six dice when you lead a group into a room and you happen to have a good number of points in that skill, its not hard to figure out that you are being tested. So you have a little bit of mystery added right there simply by being uniform in your medium for task resolution as well as the ways you can show or ask to show the cards.”
Penter went on to give an example of how the cards would work in play. “The GM decides that two players are close enough to smell something, one is close enough to hear something (water lapping against the body while in a section of pipe below), and another two are too far away to sense anything but their cards are considered “bluff” cards.” Penter said. “The GM assigns a basic check difficulty for the task and asks everyone in the group to show a card for a target difficulty resolution. The GM only needs to know, or have written down, the suit and lucky numbers of the characters which are decided upon during character creation. The GM adds any modifiers he/she sees fit and then adds +5 for any character that drew their lucky number, and +2 for any character that drew their suit. Quickly he has performed a group check of many senses, all at once, while keeping a bit of mystery about what exactly is occurring with each check even if the players see one another’s cards. There is a good gain in speed here as well.” Penter also said that a GM could request cards be placed face up as players entered a room and could quickly glance at the cards to complete the skill check to move the game on without interruption.