Kickstarter Tabletop Alert, Interview: Andrew Miller’s ‘The Cloud Dungeon’

Reading Time: 7 minutes
CloudDungeon-Supplies
How could an RPG where I break out these supplies not be fun? Photo by Will James.

The Cloud Dungeon just launched on Kickstarter today and promises a whole new way to play an all-ages RPG while bringing tons of creativity to everyone at the table.

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer. Please note that I received a prototype copy of the game so final quality will be quite different from what you see here.

Andrew Miller of AndHeGames is no newbie to making games, though The Cloud Dungeon is his first game he hasn’t just given away for free. So what is so different about The Cloud Dungeon? It is what Miller is calling a D.I.Y. paper craft RPG game. At a high level, some parts of the game book itself are cut up, torn apart, color, taped together, glued, etc. as you play. This does mean that some of the components are single-use only; however, for purchasers of the game, those pages will be available as PDFs so you can always print and play again!

So why would you need to cut up your game book? To start with, your character sheets and “miniatures” come out of the book and become living creations. They are black and white and blank slates. The idea is that you can do whatever you want with it and as you progress in the game, equipment you acquire, damage you take, etc. is all reflected on your character sheet.

CloudDungeon-MrB
I couldn’t resist putting googly eyes on him. Photo by Will James.

I don’t want to give away too much of the game itself because part of the joy of the game is all the unexpected as you play through the book, but suffice it to say, there are a lot of fun paper craft and D.I.Y. things you need to do with some of the pages as part of the RPG adventure you’re playing. I’ll just leave you with my character at the start of the game to give a feel for the D.I.Y. nature of the game–I colored him in with pencils and markers, chose the action figure starting item, and rolled for my two quirks (which I also drew onto my character).

The only requirements for playing the game are the book, some six-sided dice (two per player is recommended), a GM, scissors, tape, and, optionally (required if you want the full experience) your preferred method(s) for drawing and coloring. No RPG experience is needed, the content is fairly all-ages (six or seven and up), and the added fun of the coloring and creativity really draws everyone in.

If you are looking for a fun, light-hearted RPG game for the whole family that will also let you and/or your kids have a lot of fun, creative play at the same time, go check out The Cloud Dungeon.

I had a chance to do a short interview with Miller about gaming, being a geek dad, and The Cloud Dungeon.

GeekDad: When and how did you first get into gaming?

Andrew Miller: It’s difficult to pinpoint. I’ve been fascinated with games forever. I remember playing DOS games back in the early ’90s, shareware games, and when a friend showed me Pokemon Red on his Black and White Gameboy. Family board games were pretty much always a part of my life – I played Clue, Monopoly, Risk but the first board game that really got be excited was a Pokémon board game where you could catch and fight with all 151 Pokémon. That was the bomb – Pokémon and board games.

GD: As a geek dad of a two-year-old, it’s been challenging to find time to have game nights and get people together. Especially since most of our friends also have small kids. How do you balance creating and playing games with having a three-year-old? And how do you think your upcoming arrival will change that?

AM: I’m really fortunate because my day job allows me to be home most of the day. It also requires me to be “on call” most of the time (even at night), but that’s a decent trade-off for all of the time I get to spend with my lovely wife and daughter. Before this job, however, I had always worked multiple jobs while freelancing on the side. When my work was that way, I restricted gaming to the video and board games that I could play with my wife on our few days off. Our life wasn’t set up for tons of free time, but we quickly moved towards a life that allowed us more opportunities to indulge our interests and play more games.

I expect that our second child will result in quite a bit less sleep, and quite a bit more coffee!

GD: What new things have you learned about gaming from playing games with your daughter?

AM: She’s not so concerned about rules right now, but she’ll find a way to make the game fun, even if it’s just placing all of the meeples in a long parade. Kids are inherently creative, and they’re masters of making stuff fun – it’s our challenge as adults to retain some of that.

It’s been fantastic to see adults start to play my game–which has a good deal of coloring and cut-and-paste–with the disclaimer, “oh, I’m not creative!” only to abandon their doubts and create amazing characters. Once we get past the adult hang-ups surrounding creativity and fun, we get to experience a spark of that joy that children feel when making things and playing games.

GD: Do you and your daughter have a favorite game you play together?

AM: Break the Ice, definitely. Rules are tricky with a three-year-old. (I’ve tried and failed to explain Snakes and Ladders to her), but Break the Ice is designed so well, that the goal doesn’t matter. It’s just fun! Perfect game for really young kids.

GD: What made you decide to try making your own games and gaming company?

AM: Wow, I guess because I’m really interested in business, and I can’t code. Let me explain–I had in the back of my mind the idea that I would create a video game ever since I heard about, and interviewed, Jason Rohrer (one of my artistic heroes) a few years ago. But what always turned me away was the technical aspect. I didn’t really desire to learn how to code. I’d done some websites in school, and I didn’t like it. Then I discovered “hobby” tabletop games. I was shocked with the entirely new idea that individual people made and manufactured board games.

This was a revelation, and I instantly was struck with a strong desire to make my own tabletop game. I had a background in design and illustration, and there was no coding required! Plus, tabletop gaming is an industry that is just beginning to come into its own, which is really exciting.

GD: Where did the idea for a D.I.Y. RPG come from?

AM: From overwhelm and a self-imposed creative constraint. I was working on another game, and I started to look into what it would take to manufacture and produce the game.

Instantly, I started panicking, drowning in a sea of details. It was almost overwhelmingly complicated to launch my own game and my own game company all by myself. The way I brought my heart rate down was by restricting my options. I had self-published several books in the past, and I had that process down, and production costs and print run numbers would be low, allowing room for mistakes. I wondered–what if I published a book that was a game? What could I do with that that no other designer is doing right now? As soon as I had decided on a game-in-a-book, there was an outpouring of creativity, as is often the case when the options are restricted from the terrifyingly limitless to knowable limits.

GD: Since a lot of our readers are parents, what do you think is the right age range for The Cloud Dungeon?

AM: It depends on the maturity level/interest level of the kids, but the youngest players that I would recommend would be in the 7-10 age range. I’ve play tested with kids this young, and most of them really loved it. It does require a little focus, but there’s lots of coloring and humor that kids will understand.

GD: Do you have any plans to release a Print and Play version on Kickstarter or to backers before the end of the Kickstarter to get any feedback before finalizing the game?

AM: I’m going to be involving the backers in a lot of decisions about the game. Because the game is about the joy of creation, I want the Kickstarter to be the same. I’ll be releasing sections of the game for player feedback (while trying not to be too spoileriffic) and I’ll be taking surveys to decide on details within the game, etc. Anyone who is interested in the game can get involved and have their fingerprints on the final version of The Cloud Dungeon.

GD: Do you have a “day job” as well? What do you do when you aren’t making games?

AM: My wife and I are respite houseparents! We welcome kids into our home for brief periods of time to give the kids, and their families, a break in an attempt to keep struggling families together. We’re essentially in charge of hosting mini vacations. I play a lot of basketball, air hockey, and Super Smash Bros for my job!

GD: Final question. Something along the lines of “Being a geek isn’t about what you love but how you love it,” is sort of the new geek mantra. Do you have anything, besides gaming, that you consider yourself a geek about?

AM: Oh, yes. I consider myself to be a geek (i.e. Passionately interested and enthusiastic) about everything I love.
Coffee: I roast my own beans in a DIY roasting rig.
Cooking: I research the heck out of my recipes and my wife and I are always planning new exciting culinary adventures.
Business: I love reading and learning about business, leadership, etc.
Theology and social justice: I go to church with homeless and LGBTQ people. I enjoy challenging comfortable religious people, and that includes challenging myself.
Comics: I love newspaper comics, especially the old greats. Calvin and Hobbes, Crazy Kat, Pogo, and the like.
Fermentation: I’ve brewed my own beer, mead, root beer, coffee soda, sweet potato soda, ginger beer, and my wife and I have fermented all sorts of stuff. I really want to make my own cheese.

And I love so many other things! Being a geek is the best. As John Green put it,”…because nerds like us are allowed to be un-ironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it… when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.”

For more details on the game and the campaign, head over to Kickstarter!

Note: I was given a review copy of the game but all thoughts and ideas above are my own.

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