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ZiMo23 Interview: Sean McClellan

Sean McClellan, publishing as Mac, is raising funds on itch for Bullets and Bourbon.

Q: Easy question first: Give us the elevator pitch of your project. Tell us about it in two sentences or less.

A: Bullets & Bourbon: Reloaded is a card-based RPG that takes place in the Wild West inspired by classic Spaghetti Westerns and games like the Red Dead series. The core mechanic is "the Challenge" where players risk their attributes to play cards against the Dealer (GM) and whoever gets the highest value of their cards wins.

Q: Is this your first ZineMonth project or have you done it before? If it's your first, talk a bit about what inspired you to give it a shot this year. If you've done it before, what's something you've learned from previous crowdfunding projects that you may be doing differently this time, or, if you're not doing anything differently, talk a bit about your previous projects.

A: It's actually a little bit of A and a little bit of B. Last year I co-created NUKED! A Radioactive Knave Hack with my friend and collaborator T. Thomas Giant (a.k.a. NondairyGiant). We had devised the rules together, but since I had done most of the actual writing (which is to say I did most of the typing, not that I created the whole game myself!) and Giant was more active on social media and in the various RPG Discords he handled the itch page. I designed and wrote Bullets & Bourbon on my own, so this year I'm also managing my own itch page, which has been an adventure. I used Kickstarter to fund Rangers of the Midden Vale (my first project), but a lot of indie designers are trying to move away from that platform, so I figured I'd give a solo itch campaign a shot. The interface overall is pretty straightforward, but there were a few items that I couldn't make heads or tails of on my own. Fortunately the Zine Month Discord has a lot of great people willing to help bumbling fools such as myself and I was able to get everything sorted out.

I was also able to collaborate with some of my favorite artists from previous projects - HodagRPG, James Windsor-Smith, and PerplexingRuins - while also teaming up with a new artist - Francesco Accordi - who actually found out about one of my previous games and reached out to me about working together on whatever I had coming up in my pipeline, which just so happened to be B&B. Each of them has such a unique style that manages to capture the vibes of B&B in their own way!

Q: Finally, tell us something about your current project that really excites you but the average backer may not be aware of. Maybe a twist to an old trope, a new way of presenting something, or maybe just something you've never tried before that you're using this as an opportunity to try out.

A: Honestly the overall resolution system is what I'm the most excited about. I had originally conceived Bullets & Bourbon as a Lasers & Feelings hack but with cards instead of dice. Over time I kept working at it until I had something a bit more robust while not getting overly complicated. Essentially each time a player wants to do something dangerous they have to make a wager, essentially putting their physical and mental wellbeing on the line. The more a player is willing to wager, the more cards they can play out of their deck. Once wagers are made, everyone plays cards and counts up the totals (kind of like in War!). Face cards were tough to sort out (since making them "10s" would skew the random chance), but with the help of a friend I was able to devise what I think is a pretty elegant solution that adds a level of "storytelling RPG" elements to the game. I don't want to spoil anything more!

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