In her free time, Kirsty Garbe might be a sheep-riding gnome, whose hat jingles with a jester’s bell. Or, she might be a faerie, whose dragon companion suffers from a compulsive eating disorder. Once, she was even a gnome cleric, rescuing prostitutes from the streets and teaching them religious magic.
It’s all part of the Garbe’s love of fantasy role-playing games — a love that she has now turned into a full-time job and potential career.
“I wasn’t really into the whole party-and-drinking scene; it just seems like a giant waste of money and time,” the 30-year-old North Deltan explained, whereas role-playing games “just made more sense because basically it’s your friend group, and you’re really just there to tell a story, which is really fun.”
Role-playing games, known as RPGs in the gamer world, are any kind of game that allows the player to step into a new persona and experience a world for themselves. However, the term RPG is most commonly used to describe fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons.
In these games, players create a character for themselves and interact with a world controlled by the dungeon master (or DM) using dice and a series of prescribed rules. Although these games sometimes use gridded mats and figurines, many simply play using paper, pencil and the imagination.
Garbe was first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons 10 years ago, and soon moved on to Pathfinder — an offshoot of Dungeons & Dragons which focuses on complexity and customization rather than ease of game play.
But four years ago, Garbe started to make her own RPG.
“None of my friends would play with me because it was too complicated,” she said about why she started creating her own game. “They would see the rule book of 800 pages and be like, ‘Mmm, I’m not doing this.’”
In the beginning, it was just Garbe and her friend Jen Elliott, a Ladner-native who now lives in Scotland, working on the project. Soon it grew to include seven other writers, artists and developers from around the world, and now her company Lunar Games is less than two weeks away from producing its first RPG: Endless Realms.
Endless Realms is situated in the fantasy world of Lumis, where residents can manipulate the cosmic energies the gods used to forge the world. For Garbe, one of her goals was to create a world that felt authentic, while still being unique and adaptable to the player’s gaming style.
She believes she’s achieved that.
“You can play the game how you really want,” she said. “If you want to do more [role playing], totally fine. Or if you just want to be a murder hobo, you can do that too.”
Gamers can play as one of the nine core races: the eternally-youthful Al’miren, the subterranean Dengu, the strong-willed Kalamir, the protective Silean, the tricky Skidi, the prideful Ulvar Kyr, the silent Ventelli, the sentient plant-race Yakshi and the ubiquitous humans.
“When we first started doing our core races, we really wanted to get away from humans and play around with different body structures,” Garbe said, unlike the many RPGs that follow the typical fantasy format of elves, dwarves, halflings and humans.
“My artist and I have a running joke about elves, dwarves,” she said. “It’s tall, skinny humans; short, fat humans; midget humans and humans with pointy ears.”
In a typical RPG, each race will get different characteristics, denoted by a modifier to a particular statistic. (For example, elves in Dungeons & Dragons get plus two to their base dexterity score, because elves are nimble and light on their feet.) However, in Garbe’s game, race characteristics have no bearing on the statistics of the game. It’s just one way Garbe and her team tried to make the game easy to grasp and simple to play.
“I think making it simple enough that people can pick it up and play the system … but still giving enough depth for people who want to continue playing [is really important],” Garbe said.
Her friends, who avoided RPGs in the past, “actually played it,” she said. “They understood it. I could teach it to them within 10 minutes.
“Granted, I did have to make their first character for them,” she added. “But I did show them how to do it after and they didn’t have too many problems.”
Endless Realms is based on comparative dice rolling. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, which features the 20-sided die and uses a variety of other dice, Garbe’s game only uses a 10-sided one. Players roll the die, add or subtract any modifiers they might have, and compare it to the DM’s roll.
So far, Garbe said, it has proved simple enough to teach at a number of conventions in under 10 minutes. She’s demonstrated the game at the Emerald City ComiCon in Seattle, the Calgary Fan and Comic Expo, and most recently at the Northern Fan Con in Prince George.
“The thing I think I do enjoy most is when we run demos at conventions and people just have a lot of fun,” Garbe said. “That makes me really happy to see that people actually do enjoy playing it.”
That enjoyment seems to have turned itself into funding for Endless Realms. On April 24, Lunar Games launched a Kickstarter page to pay for the printing of its 350-page core rule book and 350-page creature compendium. The Kickstarter has an all-or-nothing goal of $38,000, and a proposed distribution date of January 2019.
On May 14, two weeks before its May 29 closing date, the project was more than 80 per cent funded. Eleven people had spent $500 or more to get the books, a sketch of their character from an Endless Realms artist and their character featured in a short story or adventure. Five people had pledged $1,250 or more to get the same plus every future Endless Realms title in digital format.
“I was shocked,” Garbe said.
But it’s also a chance for Garbe to see where the company could go. Lunar Games already has a three-year production plan that includes two short story books, a novelette, two adventures and a city book. Garbe is hoping it can continue for five, 10 or even 15 years.
“It’s been my full-time job for three years,” she said. Garbe and her husband “had the option of just going into the housing market earlier and we just said, ‘meh.’ We did this as a long-term investment … It gives us something to work on as a company, compared to just owning a house.”