It is here, dear reader, The RPG Zine for Kids Who Read Good And Do Other Stuff. I called it PERIL though, and I painted in it spooky letters to put on top of the cover art. Yes, I used some paint to do something I could have done fine with a marker, font, or leaky octopus. But it is about the process, isn’t it? More on the process in a later paragraph. You may notice also, dear reader, that I gave it a number. 00. This is a good number to choose if you plan to do a 01, but no one will notice if you don’t. I also did not paint a spooky 00 to go on this one (but if I did, the zeros would have super evil lines crossing them diagonally so you would know they were a zero and not an o). That way if there is never a 01, no one will notice. It doesn’t lock me into doing spooky numbers all the time either, because numbers only look spooky in red and should look elegant otherwise. It has just short of enough content to get kids inspired. Some advanced S&B rules, die drop tables, monsters, a dungeon, and whatnot. It is written more like an activity book than a zine, really.
So no promise on ever having a PERIL 01, but here is PERIL 00. But before you click your grubby mouse all over this pristine new thing, I would like to tell you about how this zine almost didn’t happen. You may have to click a read more button to read this story.
tl;dr: the ballad of how This Zine That Was Supposed To Be Community Made But Almost Didn’t Happen And When It Did Happen It Broke A Printer And Is Basically Just Stuff I Grabbed Off My Own Website.
So quite a handful of people contributed material to this project, so many that I will give full credits at the bottom of this post rather than right here where they truthfully belong. Unfortunately the majority of it was unable to make the final zine for a few reasons. When I sent off the original stuff to the library, they had some questions and concerns and a few objections. I want to be up front and honest here: Don’t Hate The Library™, the library wants kids to have poop jokes and exploding death scenes, but the library and I agreed on some content upsetting parents and ultimately keeping them out of the hobby. Kids will look up exploding death scenes and poop jokes when mom and dad are not around, and that’s cool cause mom and dad can’t see and every one wins.
We decided that even if most of the content was kid friendly as far as language went, there was a certain tone to the thing we wanted to have. In the grown up world, we like playing RPGs like Gygax sort of envisioned; relatively regular people getting into crazy adventures. That is because grown ups know that heroism is not black and white, and that when you fight the dragon but you’re a level 99 Super Saiyan it isn’t as cool as if you started out life as a shit-shoveling peon. We know that, and we love that. But younger kids, the noobs and nerds who are going to be writing their on punk rock RPG material when we stop, they don’t know that. They look at things like Adventure Time and they love it, but maybe they think that Finn is a regular guy and connect. He isn’t a regular guy though, he is like the only hero in the world. He was destined to do great stuffs. My goal is to get kids into adventuring the way Finn adventures, and not the way Tom does. Tom is the best, by the way.
That is what Sword & Backpack is about; goofy heroics committed by characters who were more or less destined to be goofy heroes. I love it, I love it so much, and that should explain why so many submissions were left out. But it is my fault. I put out the call and didn’t really explain myself well. So if you’re kind of pissed that your thing didn’t make it, I apologize and I understand if you hate me.
Now, if you sent me something that was kid friendly and it didn’t make it there is another reason. Around noon today, this zine didn’t exist. So much of what was left was only art and it was decided that maybe we would skip the zine. Then someone from the library was like “what if we do it like teen appropriate?” and I said “there isn’t much time, but I will see what I can do.” And then like half-way through I got another message that was something to the affect of “okay so probably like nine and up.” I threw my hands up and I was like “ggaaaahhhh” and started over. Except for the words on the tentacle die-drop table that Jeff wrote (yes.), I wrote 100% of this zine in between 1pm and 3pm, and a lot of the art is stuff from this very website purposed for the children. Just to have SOMETHING to inspire these little dudes into playing more elfgames. I also used a lot of art from Matthew Adams, a thing from Jeff Call, and expanded a concept by the brothers Dunkey Halton (one of them also named this blog post). There were submissions that were kid/mood friendly, but they were cut in the end for space (when you make a booklet, you have to have an even number of pages) and because it was easier for me to write about my stuff and Matt’s stuff because it is stuff I was already familiar with.
It gets better.
The library said they would print these, and they printed the S&B rule books too. If you know how much it cost to print off zine material even on crappy paper that is too bright, then you know much burden the library saved me. There was a catch, I had to email the thing to them and pick it up before 5pm. My wife proofread the thing at 4:30pm when she got home from work. She was calling out errors while I fixed them. At 4:45 I emailed the library the zine, and got in the car to go pick them up. I walked in the door at 4:58 and they had just finished printing just under 100 copies of this zine. 100 free copies of a 12 page zine (really, 3 double sided pages) is a good deal. But. But the email corrupted the pdf and the zine was missing a page, and every other page was upside down. Dreams crushed right then and there, and it was too late to fix. The library would have printed nearly 100 broken zines across 300 sheets of paper, but they got lucky and the machine jammed at copy 98 (piece of paper #294).
But I went to kinkos and paid to have 50 or so of these guys printed off and except for the sizable dent in my wallet this story has a happy ending for the first 50 kids to get a zine!! The 51st kid is out of luck.
There it is, the ballad of how This Zine That Was Supposed To Be Community Made Almost Didn’t Happen And When It Did Happen It Broke A Printer And Is Basically Just Stuff I Grabbed Off My Own Website.
So, here is a nearly complete list of people who sent me stuff even though it isn’t in the zine. If you’re reading this and you think I wronged you by leaving your stuff out, feel free to email me and I can explain myself. I still greatly appreciate the effort, and I am real sorry.
Tony gave me a map, Katherine gave me a choice of art, Matthew S. gave me a post apocalyptic adventure complete with a sack of dynamite hidden under some poop in a toilet, Jess gave me a really cool pixie trouble table ( there was too much conversion to s&b in the short time I had), and Vance gave me an entire freakin’ game with adventures (!). Tony, if you’re reading this your map made the cut in the form of a broad sheet that got printed out by itself, it has lines on the back for writing down what goes on there, thanks bubs. A few people sent me what was essentially “Hey here is some stuff I sell, but you can take your pick of it and include it.” I had always planned on disseminating this thing for free so I didn’t think that was a good idea, from one working artist to another.
It took me the entirety of Bey’s ‘Lemonade’ to write this post and now it is nearly 1am and I have to bind 50 zines. Thanks again everyone for submitting.