The Black Ballad

The Black Ballad

The perfect campaign to run after a TPK! If death awaits all adventurers, then the salvation of resurrection is always the hope.
$155,545 ūüéČ
of $65,000 (USD) goal
Project Ended
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Current Stretch Goal!


You Died. Now What? Welcome to the Black Ballad

What if you aren't a storyteller though? What will you find in this book?
Beyond the gorgeous setting and wonderful art, we explore the very nature of what it means to be a Cleric. Where does your power come from? Where do the god's power come from? How does one ascend to become a god themselves? 

  • The Domains of Dream and Regret: Explore the powers and tenets of new domains, compatible with multiple gods.¬†

  • Gargoyles - Scions of the Storm: A new playable species, infused with divine energy, and a bastion for a domains very essence.

  • The Unhallowed - Lost Vagrants of the Wastes: A new species of mortals touched by the afterlife. They walk the mortal world, but when they sleep their souls journey to the lands of the dead. The Unhallowed provide a unique gameplay experience when you travel with a party of dead souls.

  • The Soul Stitched - The Unliving Collective: Ever wonder what happens to undead felled by divine energy? What if they were strong enough to rebuild themselves from just a sliver of memory? Slowly stitching themselves back together before they unravel entirely, the Soul Stitched are a patchwork of stolen and absorbed memories; perhaps able to reform themselves during the adventure.¬†

  • And more! Just see our Stretch Goals...

This is the essential adventure to have at the ready for when tragedy strikes the character's at your table!
It makes the perfect gift for the Game Master in your life. While its focus is 5E, we've been tracking the conversation around ORC and other systems as well. Our philosophy is that well-designed campaigns are easily run using any game system with the right guidance, so we focused on the following features to assist storytellers running The Black Ballad.

  • Dynamic encounters with self-contained mechanics such as Divine Grit, which allows a character to take unique actions at a cost... hopefully to change the tide of battle.¬†

  • A scalable tier design. We believe in EPICNESS! While we designed this campaign around Tier 4, level 20, gameplay we offer guidance in every chapter for how to run this adventure for every tier of play. This way, characters of any level can experience a truly divine tale.¬†

  • Last Will, Obituaries, and Unraveling. What happens to the characters while they are dead? What happens to their loot and their legacies? With The Black Ballad you'll be able to provide thoughtful (and potentially humorous) moments over what happens to their cherished, magical blade or hoard of wealth.

  • A full year of epic gameplay. We can't give away all the secrets of course, but this campaign will have a lasting effect on your world. We will promise however, that they will fight at least one god. If not several...

  • Social Statblocks. We love roleplay, and not every battle needs to be won with sword or spell. Our NPCs all feature full social statblocks to provide roleplaying hints, do's, don'ts, and even the often-asked question: are they romanceable?


Pledge Levels


Reviews and Press!

As our campaign unfolds throughout this Backerkit journey, we will constantly update this section with new features, quotes, and testimonials!


Our Team

Storytellers Forge is an indie roleplaying game design studio that focuses on crafting compelling narratives‚ÄĒwith a focus on the creators themselves. We create full campaigns, storylines, and worlds adaptable for any storyteller‚Äôs game in evocative ways. We believe all storytellers should be empowered, from expert wordsmiths to fresh game masters taking the leap for the very first time. The tales from our studio are immersive, epic, and bind groups together.

As a studio, our primary goal is to bring the work of artists, writers, designers, and creatives to light in the roleplaying community.
We empower our teams with the ability to take ownership of the work they create. By allowing this creative pride, we can explore interesting concepts like featuring immersive soundtracks by artists for play at the table or telling stories across multiple game systems. From one-shot horror scenarios, epic full-length campaigns, or collaborative apocalyptic settings, Storytellers Forge can help add flavor to any world setting.

We are partnered with 4Horsemen Publications to tie both role-playing and literary fiction.
Authors who love gaming have a path to full publication for novels in the worlds created, bringing even more life to characters and storylines. Additionally, thanks to the expertise of traditional publishing, all of our pdfs are fully ADA compliant (and audio enhanced with secret spoilers!) and come in a variety of publishing formats and distribution networks. Who are the 4 Horsemen you ask?
They are skilled professionals with a tenacious drive to not only reach for new heights, but reimagine the publishing industry. 


The Loot Box (and Other Add Ons)

All of our extra goods will be contained within "The Black Ballad - Loot Crate" Tier and aren't offered as individual items during the duration of this campaign. As much as we would like to offer you past products, we are still a new studio (even though the team is not). That said, we do have SOME extra goodies, from both our writers and our partners! (If you purchase any Add Ons, and order a Loot Crate, we will ship these items inside that crate).

The Loot Crate Details:

The Dusk Walker Novel:  Written by Crystal Graeber, a writer on the Black Ballad Campaign book, and author of Duskwalker. A full novel following the journey of Echo and her time within the Sunless Crossing (or her potential escape).

Ashlynn's Adventure Journal: Written by Courteney Penney and Illustrated by Ash Blankenfeld, this short journal highlights the Sovereign, Ashlynn and some of her adventures prior to the Black Ballad. The rest of the journal is an adventure journal for your players! Logs, grid lines, notes, and doodles!

The Black Ballad Orchestral CD: DiAmorte's physical CD release for the Black Ballad Album.

The Black Ballad Special Edition Hardcover: We figured it was obvious to mention, you are getting the book. But just in case.

The Bones: A set of custom Black Ballad themed dice (D4 through D20).

USB Stick of Everything: All our digital files, artwork, music, and everything we are making all loaded onto one USB stick - just for you.

Purgatory Poker Cards: A full Black Ballad themed deck of playing cards for use during the campaign, or for any other regular card usages!

Custom 10-pack of Character Sheets: We designed our character sheets to bake in the Obituary, Unraveling Effects, and the Last Will for your players.  Yes, anyone can print them off but let us use good paper (at least once) and shoot them in a Loot Crate for you.

Campaign Advantage Tokens: 5 Custom Coins for use with Purgatory Poker or as Inspiration / Advantage Tokens for players.

Storytellers Screen: A custom storyteller screen with campaign information and other house rules relevant to The Black Ballad.

Optional Add Ons:
These items will be available as add-ons, but come from our partners or creators and aren't attached directly to the Campaign.


Stretch Goals

Like all campaigns, we've got plenty of extra content we want to add in.
We thought about doing the slow reveal but... decided to reveal what we have in store right off the bat! Here are the first 10 goals we have planned!

DiAmorte Orchestral Soundtrack DRM Free - $75,000

The Black Ballad backtracks and soundtrack for this campaign will not only be embedded in The Black Ballad book, but will also be set DRM free for streamers. As the musicians who composed this album are all massive gamers themselves they nderstand the need for epic, gaming soundtracks and, as such, the gods of Sony Entertainment will be offered tribute. With this stretch goal unlocked, we can investigate partnering up with gaming services to embed the soundscapes directly into their platforms.

New Domains! - $80,000

We already have two new Domains fully developed, and with this stretch goal unlocked, we will add 2 more! The domains of Wish and Envy. Not all faiths out there are inherently good, and desire can often lead to ambition. For better or worse.

Contributor Raises! - $88,000

Earning a wage within the TTRPG space is difficult and our team has been through a lot. Hitting this stretch goal will see a bump in all our freelance wages by 10%. This stretch goal is obviously one of our favorites. Countless caffeine driven hours from this team have taken their toll and they are almost out of coffee. Let's get them some more!

Additional Artwork! - $93,000

Art spacing in a campaign book is interesting. While conventional guidance says one picture about every 3 pages (or about 15%) we think more is better! When this goal is met, we will commission even more custom artwork for both the interior of The Black Ballad and also added to our digital art-file bundles.

New Core Class - "The Godless": $101,000

What happens if a Cleric or Paladin loses their connection to their god? What if they never had one to begin with? This new, full 20-Level Core Class, designed in conjunction with 2C Gaming, unveils the secrets of the Godless Monarchy. Divine channelers who can steal the magic of others, the Godless present a spiritual or faithful person without the trappings of religion to confine them. Much to the chagrin of religions around them.

Additional Voice Acting - $106,000

Throughout the campaign book, we present in-character letters that tell stories to set the world. As part of the base campaign, we have Carlos Ferro narrating the Introduction letter penned by Majin the Betrayer. With this stretch goal, we will have James Dorton and other voice actors lend their voices to the remaining letters. This way, the storyteller can showcase a piece of lore to their players outside of their own creation (and enabling the storyteller a chance sneak a bite or a quick drink). Plus, we think it's cool!

Compatibility Pack - $114,000

The OGL discussions have driven this goal. Multiple game systems are switching to the ORC license, or a different system engine, for compatibility and nothing is preventing us from doing the same. After the main book is completed, we will conduct a survey for our players on which game system they want a conversion for, and then we will convert all monster and NPC stats in the appendix for that system and deliver it as a free PDF for all backers.


Contributor Raises! - $120,000

We are back to offer more raises for the team! Why not! They have helped us get there and deserve to survive on something more than Ramen and Coffee. We might not be able to swing all-you-can-eat Pocky, but we DO know that if we hit this goal that all our freelancers will be given another 10% raise!


Print Version Upgrades! $128,000

This stretch goal is all about making this hardcover special edition FEEL good in your hands. There are several bonus options for printing that we think can make this book a perfect collector's item. Hitting this stretch goal will allow ST Forge and 4 Horsemen to check those special "optional" buttons the printers always give us.

Compatibility Pack - $150,000

The OGL discussions have driven this goal. Multiple game systems are switching to the ORC license, or a different system engine, for compatibility and nothing is preventing us from doing the same. After the main book is completed, we will conduct a survey for our players on which game system they want a conversion for, and then we will convert all monster and NPC stats in the appendix for that system and deliver it as a free PDF for all backers.

From the bottom of our collective hearts, thank you all so very much!

Timeline and Financials

The Heavy Details!
Let's talk book production for a massive multi-media campaign project.

Production on the Black Ballad has already started as of October 2022. We've been working behind the scenes to draft large quantities of the story, and world, and to finalize the elements you already see here. We've completed all but eight chapters of the campaign and are pausing for the duration of the crowdfunding. 

  • In April through September, we will finalize all remaining text, work through additional content, and polish off stretch goal content.
  • Art, Editing, and Playtesting will take place over the summer of 2023. With the book being turned over to layout in September of this year.
  • Final PDF delivery should be around Jan of 2024, with printing and shipping of physical goods in May of 2024.

Obviously, we would like to get it done sooner, and that is entirely possible. These timelines are set for our worst-case scenario, and we truly hope we can deliver months early! Our team is greatly inspired, and dedicated to getting this project done right, but this is also a multi-media project which brings it own unique scheduling specifics. We are projecting the following for the supporting novels and music:

  • DiAmorte has been composing the album this entire time. The orchestral soundtrack for the Black Ballad should be completed by September of 2023.¬†
  • The novel Duskwalker, which is included in several of our tiers, shall be fully written and finished with all layout and editing by September of 2023.
  • Ashlynn's Adventure Journal illustrations and backstory will be finished earlier, but will ship at the same time.

If you want to follow along with the project every step of the way as we get elements completed, joining our discord is the best way! We are constantly putting updates and releasing elements for playtest!

Financials! (Or why we are asking you for support).

There creation of a mega-campaign such as this (The Black Ballad itself is easily over a year of gameplay in a brand-new setting) consists of many moving parts. We fully understand that Storytellers Forge is a new studio, and we are painfully (and intimately) aware that not every project promised by other creators has come to fruition so, to help allay those fears, we want to showcase both our expertise and highlight why our new studio is crowdfunding.

Your support for this project directly funds the following buckets, and helps launch a studio where all contributors have a vested interest in the project's success. Below we highlight what a project truly costs given the current state of the TTRPG industry today, and hope that this shines a light on the behind the scenes financials. 

Creation: The Black Ballad is estimated at 174,000 words with a goal of artwork every 2 or 3 pages within the book (rivaling most top-tier RPG books on the market).

  • Writing, Developmental Editing, Copy Editing, Playtest and Proof Editing: $14,602

  • Art, Art Direction, and Layout Design: $18,860

  • Backerkit Page Development, Video Trailer Production, Marketing, and Socials: $6,220

  • Legal, Accountants, Website Fees, Contracts: $2,395

  • Total for Creation: $42,077

Getting the entire project made is one thing but, in order to raise these funds and print the book, we've got to pay the deities and patrons of Commerce as well:

  • Stripe Payment Processing Fees: $1,800

  • Backerkit Fees: $3,000

  • Printing and Delivery to us: $16,500

  • A little 'Oh Shit' Factor: $1,623

  • Total for Production: $22,923

Black Ballad Overall: $65,000. That's how much it costs to make a full RPG from cradle to grave in 2023. It's why independent studios are gravely affected when major studios try and mess with things like the OGL. If you notice, there really isn't a "Profit" bucket in this. We make our money in the future when the project is made. Supporting our project also helps get our studio off the ground and then we can branch out into multiple campaigns for different systems entirely! 


Shipping and VAT/Taxes

All shipping and VAT/Tax costs are determined based on your address and finished after the campaign in the pledge manager.
While we can technically ship anywhere in the world, the special edition hardcovers and loot crates ordered here will be manually shipped, so if you are outside of the United States, know that USPS shall be our shipping method. 

We are unable to ship to certain countries at this time due to global affairs (like Russia), for matters far beyond any control.

Our current shipping estimates for the project (and these are estimates only) are as follows:

Single Book:
  • Lower 48 states: $14
  • Hawaii, Alaska, US Territories: $22
  • Rest of the World: $44

After the special edition print run (available during this crowdfunding), we will have full distribution through regular bookstores and international delivery through a print-on-demand method. 
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