Nerd Culture

Pew Pew Pew: An interview with the creator of Laser Kittens

“Laser Kittens is a cooperative storytelling game suitable for everyone from pre-teens to adults. Using two standard decks of playing cards, you’ll bid for control of the story. Players take turns being Class Captain, setting the scene and controlling any NPCs while the other players narrate the actions of their kittens. When your laser goes off, you never know if it will do something amazing or backfire terribly, creating kitten chaos. The fun is in seeing what happens!”

Stentor Danielson is the co-owner of Glittercats Fine Amusement, an independent tabletop gaming company. He and co-owner Cheyenne Wall-Grimes recently finished holding a Kickstarter to raise funds for Laser Kittens: an RPG about tiny kittens growing up.

The Kickstarter set a goal of $4,500 for costs to create the game, which includes a 6×9, 100 page rulebook. This goal was met in just a week and by the end of the campaign, they had raised $10,038. This opened the doors for extras like rendering the book in full color and printing a cat-themed deck of cards for backers.

Danielson took some time out of his busy schedule of playing with kittens to answer a few questions about Laser Kittens, Glittercats, and the Kickstarter experience.

So how did the idea for Laser Kittens come around?

Cheyenne Wall-Grimes and I have fostered a bunch of litters of kittens for our local humane society, at the real-life Knoll St School for Wayward Kittens. Just observing them for years, and seeing how they go on tiny adventures and how they mature into awesome cats, made me think about how to share that world with other people. While I was at GenCon in 2014 I started thinking about what the mechanics would be for having characters that can’t fully control their powers, and it all developed from there.


Is this your first experience using Kickstarter for fundraising? What were some of the challenges, the different things that having a KS opened up to you in terms of game development?

Yes, this was the first Kickstarter for both of us. I think the biggest challenge is budgeting. We ended up getting lucky and just hitting the stretch goals we had planned, but going into it it was really hard to judge what kind of reach we’d get.

It seems like Laser Kittens is a more in-depth, complicated game than some of the others you’ve created. What were some of the struggles there (like deciding whether or not to use the Apocalypse World [system]), or some of the liberties?

LK is different in a lot of ways from our previous games, which are card based social games. Compared to a lot of other RPGs, LK is very streamlined and rules light. The biggest challenge I think was getting the mechanics to match the flavor of the world we wanted to cultivate, without constraining players’ creativity.

How many people do you have working on LK, and at Glittercats in general?

Glittercats is officially just the two of us, Cheyenne and myself. For Laser Kittens we’ve brought in Colleen Riley to do editing, and Cynthia Lee and Rori de Rien to do art. We’ve worked with Cynthia several times in the past and we’re always very impressed with her work. Rori and Colleen are working with us for the first time but we’ve been very happy with what they’ve done.

I’m sensing a running theme of kittens, rainbows, and good sweet things in Glittercats’ games. Is that something you guys deliberately set out to do? If so, why? (Kittens and Rainbows and ____, etc.)

Appreciation of cuteness and silliness is one of the things that brought Cheyenne and me together. And I think its an under-explored niche in the game world. You can already find lots of people doing heavy, serious, gritty games very well, so we want to offer something different.

Are we going to see more expansion adventures for LK after it’s released?

That depends on how interested people are in them. Collaborative scenario building is a big part of the mechanics of LK, so I see pregen adventures as more of a bridge into learning the game. What I’m more interested in is the possibility of hacking the the basic mechanics for non-kitten settings – maybe Laser Dinosaurs or Laser Seals. We also want to open the system up for other designers to publish their own hacks.

Say you have a group of serious person stereotypes. What do you say to them to convince them to play Laser Kittens?

It’s lasers and kittens, what more convincing do they need? But really, if someone’s not interested in playing a lighthearted game, that’s fine with me. Different people like different things — you’re not going to see me playing CoD, after all.

What other projects are you working on

Game-wise, I’m working on an Apocalypse World hack about being in a band on tour getting into trouble, called “Get Ready To Rock” (think “This Is Spinal Tap” or “Flight of the Conchords” as an RPG). I also have an Etsy shop where I sell fantasy maps (look up Mapsburgh). Cheyenne is working on a storytelling game based on the major arcana of the tarot.

Why do you create games?

I create games because I play games. Anytime I get into a form of art or entertainment, my impulse is to try my hand at creating.

How did you get into that?

As I mentioned above, as soon as I started playing games (at the comparatively advanced age of 30 — I don’t have the standard “bought my first D&D books at age 12” story), I started thinking about how I could design one.

What are some of your favorite games (systems, universes, settings, whatever) to play?

I try to stay open-minded about the systems and settings that I play, because I can always learn something from them, especially if they’re outside my normal comfort zone. If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d like to play a game based on regency era romance novels, I would have said “no way” — then I got pulled into “A Single Man in Possession of a Good Fortune” and had an absolute blast. Some of my favorite games are The Quiet Year, A Tragedy in Five Acts, and Fiasco.

Other games by Glittercats Fine Amusements include Bunny Money Gummy (a fast-paced parlor game), Kittens and Rainbows and ___ (the opposite of Cards Against Humanity), and Warm Kitties (a strategy game about napping in the sun). All have free download-to-play rules and game pieces on the Glittercats website.

If you missed the Kickstarter, you can still back it through Backerkit. Find Glittercats on facebook, twitter, or their website, and use the hashtag #LaserKittens to join in the discussion.

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