Tuesday, 13 March 2018

5e: An interview with Mike Myler, creator of Mists of Akuma: Imperial Matchmaker

In less than a week, the Imperial Matchmaker adventure path for D&D 5e will be kickstarting. I caught up with author Mike Myler to find out more about this intriguing adventure.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Tell us a little about yourself.


MIKE
I’m the resident RPG industry maverick, wheeling around as a full-time freelancer for the past half decade getting to work on core system books (N.O.W. releasing this summer for W.O.I.N. from EN World), a couple Pathfinder softcover credits for Paizo, and on Black Crusade’s Tome of Decay for Fantasy Flight Games. There are a litany of smaller publishers I work with as well but my primary focus is on my campaign settings (Mists of Akuma is my third and the one I have the easiest time writing). Most recently I was hired on as the editor for EN5ider which I think is the biggest D&D 5E content Patreon (or one of them, anyway).

I live in Pittsburgh with my wife and cats, and the vast majority of my time is spent working. If I could illustrate I would be a one-man book making machine, and I don’t charge people for anything that isn’t at least 30 or more pages—I believe in big books that drag us inside of them with so much awesome that we can’t get back out. www.mikemyler.com has information on all my settings, free PDFs for each, and then stuff I couldn’t sell if I wanted to but is good fun so I made it anyway like Hyper Score Marvel, the Unofficial Street Fighter D&D 5E PDF and Warhammer 40k D&D 5E Hack.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
We're talking today about your upcoming Kickstarter for Imperial Matchmaker, which will create new content compatible with your unique setting Mists of Akuma. Can you briefly describe the setting and what makes it special?


Imperial Matchmaker


MIKE
Yes!

FAST VERSION: An eastern fantasy noir steampunk campaign setting for D&D 5E funded on Kickstarter in 2016. Think Edo-era Japan + Ravenloft + Warhammer 40,000 or Afro Samurai + Onimusha + Sin City.

LESS BRIEF: After a century and a half of occupation Emperor Masuto Hitoshi leads a successful rebellion against the technologically advanced foreign invaders, restoring his family’s rule over the continent. Their aggressors across the Great Divide at the Edge of the World have gone silent and disappeared allowing for a decade of peace to usher in this new reign—but then the Mists of Akuma reappear. The supernatural haze chokes Soburin, corrupting those within its embrace until they are transformed into nearly-mindless adeddo-oni driven only by a ravenous hunger for flesh. To restore order he has made special government officers called bengoshi, able to deputize citizens as they see fit to undertake missions of import to protect the two dozen prefectures. Perhaps worst of all the technology that might yet save Soburin is as feared as the mystical haze for it sometimes rapidly ages objects turning them into tsukumogami, monsters with a disposition that matches their treatment while inanimate—which for war machines is rarely a good thing.

There’s also a ton of content in the campaign setting. 14 new races (and if you count subraces that goes up by 20 or so because of all the hengeyokai), archetypes for all classes (and we smart-designed around WotC’s obvious choices ahead of time so there’s a paladin samurai and wu-jen warlock you can check out in the free PDFs from the first Kickstarter, allowing for things like an Afro Samurai build), martial arts feats, two attributes that really solidify the world (Dignity and Haitoku or “fall from virtue”), a treasure trove of oni. The list goes on and there’s a video walkthrough of the (now unavailable) black and white print on YouTube (the core is available only in color now).

Ed the Bard has a summary I rather like: “The best way I can describe the feel of this game is as if Akira Kurosawa and Quentin Tarantino had a dark, edgy little baby that loaded itself up with steam-powered augmentations, vowed to become a mystical ninja, and assassinated people while shrouded by an evil fog. “


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
What are the inspirations of the Mists of Akuma setting?


MIKE
Obviously the games and such listed above were part of it, but they’re an extension of my longtime fascination with eastern culture. I studied some japanese history in college (Musui’s Story is a must-read if you want to know what samurai were really like), I’ve spent more than 10% of my years alive working in chinese restaurants (I am allergic to milk which isn’t a problem at most spots, and they never cared if my hair was blue or complained about my lip ring), and I became a strong adherent of eastern philosophy in my teens when I stumbled onto the Tao te Ching.

That’s the backdrop. One night after finishing some cyberpunk work I was thinking “what would have happened if Commodore Perry sailed into Edo Harbor and was repelled by badass magic?” and then it went from there. Around this time I was figuring things out with world building in a larger design sense, and for Veranthea Codex the key word (the design team’s North Star as it were) was “radical”, then Hypercorps 2099 had the (incredibly creative) “hyper”, so for Mists of Akuma I decided on “cool”. If you take it out of the book and just look at it entirely by itself, anything from the book should make you say “cool” or some derivative thereof. It felt really really good when I got the first proper print proof and I couldn’t stop looking around in it because I knew we’d hit the mark—and after all the work crowdfunding and art orders and editing and layout, you really don’t know for sure if it’s all going to come together just right until you’ve got it in your hands.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
What products are you funding with the Kickstarter, and does a potential backer need the Mists of Akuma campaign setting to make use of those products? If not, do the products contain advice for tying their content into other fantasy worlds?


MIKE
We are collecting funds to put together three books, none of which require the Mists of Akuma campaign setting (it’s encouraged and available in pledge levels but not at all required).

  • Imperial Matchmaker, a sandbox mega adventure set in the imperial capital of Sanbaoshi, taking characters from 4th to 10th level in a glorious hardcover book about intrigue, action, and all manner of duplicity.
  • Trade War, another hardcover but this time an adventure path for characters 3rd-10th level, collecting the existing 6 adventures in the setting (which you can get right now) but supplemented with extra material that ties all of the stories together into one grand plot.
  • Imperial Matchmaker: Guests, a softcover book collecting the 8 Mists of Akuma Iconics with builds from 4th up through 10th level. Each of these characters has something extra and are intended to be used as pregenerated PCs (with subplots woven into Imperial Matchmaker) but for groups that want their own characters there’s guidelines for how to include something unique and extra to stand out amongst the mercenaries crowding Sanbaoshi (or elsewhere if used for Trade War), in which case the GM can use the iconics as rivals for the party!

As for tying this content into other fantasy worlds Trade War is in a great spot, but that might be a touch difficult for Imperial Matchmaker. One continuous adventure centralized around the biggest remaining city in the world (as opposed to six smaller adventures each with their own locales) demands a great deal of dedication to setting details throughout. I can point you to the 1/6th of the Mists of Akuma campaign setting to ignore/remove to take the steampunk out of it (the prefectures that accept technology are on the corners of the world map for a reason!), but I’m not sure that’ll be possible with Imperial Matchmaker or (most of) the iconics.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Imperial Matchmaker is the main product in the Kickstarter - what can we expect from it in terms of themes and content? It sounds like it might be heavy on the intrigue?


MIKE
So much drama and intrigue and action and blood! I concocted and have been running it for the biggest contributor to the first Mists of Akuma Kickstarter—he asked for intrigue and when I found out he’s a theater professional I broke out the silver. There are 20 brides and grooms from the four clans still spiteful over the Battle of Broken Spears ages ago and the Emperor has decreed they be wed to bring an end to the feud. Opportunities fly at the party as bengoshi from all over Soburin seek to gain by protecting or sabotaging the events (or even worse), not to mention how the actual betrothed couples feel about their arranged marriages. It’s not all just the ceremonies though, and there are sidequests on top of the subplots for the iconics. To set the tone the prologue involves a public beheading during a tea ceremony and things go from there; I’m not sure what better thing I could possibly tell you. :)


An Imperial Decree.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Is there anything you can safely reveal about the plot?


MIKE
Hrnnnnnnnmmnhhaaarrg.

The first marriage ceremony is interrupted by kamikazes dropping out of the sky (from the hovercraft of Rogue Kengen General Freneza Genuilo) and blowing things up (the artwork for that scene is in the color stages as of this writing.)


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
Can you talk a bit about the Kickstarter's funding levels, and are you planning any stretch goals?


MIKE
We are shooting for $8,130! More than half of that money is for cartography and illustrations, and then the rest goes to the design team and layout. There are plans for stretch goals but I’m not at liberty to reveal them just yet. They are juicy though, I’ll say that!


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
You had a number of successful past Kickstarters, so people should be able to back without worries. What has made those Kickstarters successful, and what have you learned from them?


MIKE
I like to think so—I can’t stand the thought of not fulfilling the rewards of someone who gave me money to create one of my books. It would keep me up at night and drive me bonkers 24-7. Kickstarter is a constantly changing monster and what worked 4 years ago may not work tomorrow, so part of it is staying on top of the trends for crowdfunding. Part of it is budgeting things right and learning how to make an intriguing pitch that gets people interested. Follow through is obviously important (not just to me but to the folks that know I always make good on my promises, usually way over page count). Speaking of page count, I’ve learned to be very wary of accepting print orders during a Kickstarter because sometimes the ink and paper costs can change on you, costing a lot of money you did not anticipate needing—there are pledge levels for Imperial Matchmaker that include prints instead of at-cost print vouchers, but they are only at $250 and above.

I’ve learned to be thorough, stick with it, listen to your backers, and not to launch in December.


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
When will potential backers be able to find your project on kickstarter?


MIKE
Monday March 19th!


SPILLED ALE STUDIOS
In the meantime, where can they go to find out more?


MIKE
The latest project update on the original Mists of Akuma Kickstarter page has a basic rundown of some of the iconics and a few more details. The best thing to do is follow me on Kickstarter or go to the Mists of Akuma Facebook page and make sure to sign up for the event so you get a notification exactly when it launches (I'm on twitter as well @mikemyler2).

Take a look at Kanden, one of the iconic characters provided with Imperial Matchmaker! You can also check out a video walkthrough of the Mists of Akuma core book.


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