Steamforged Launches Adventures & Academia Dungeons & Dragons Kickstarter Campaign

Steamforged Ltd. has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to help produce the first product in a brand new line of fantasy-themed miniatures, complete with unique characters, lore, and some new Dungeons & Dragons mechanics. The Kickstarter campaign for Adventures & Academia: First Class launched on Monday to fund the production of a new set of magic school-themed miniatures. Similar to the popular Animal Adventures line also produced by Steamforged, the miniatures are part of a new fantasy setting that includes fully-fleshed out characters, some unique mechanics, and more. 

To get an idea about what Adventures & Academia is all about, spoke with Thomas Lishman, the creator and art director for the project, via email.

(Photo: Steamforged) How long has Adventures & Academia been in development?    

Thomas Lishman: Adventures & Academia: First Class was actually first conceptualised over three years ago. I'd just taken my first foray into Dungeons & Dragons and was inspired to sculpt something related to my love of anime shows in school settings. Being a professional sculptor at Steamforged, I produce a lot of personal work that rarely sees the light of day. But, in this case, that first sculpt became the tiefling cleric student backers now know as Arinise!   

Besides the miniatures, what else do backers get with their pledge?

Lishman: As well as the 12 student minis, backers will get some Kickstarter exclusive goodies, too! Every character comes with an exclusive deluxe, fold-out character sheet (or 'folio') that's 5e-compatible. Those sheets include levels 1-3, a quick reference guide, and special house rules, plus a unique ancestral weapon that levels with the character.

Backers will also get a cool Easter egg in the form of an Animal Adventures crossover mini, Professor Winkelton the Basset Hound. The original success of Animal Adventures: Dungeons & Doggies helped to make Adventures & Academia possible by proving the concept, so it seemed right to give it a nod!

Professor Winkelton is Kickstarter exclusive, and comes with a brand new custom 'Professor' mini-class and spells.

Backers will also get a digital PDF one-shot adventure set in the Grand Academy and written by our own ENNIE-nominated writer, Richard August (Animal Adventures, Epic Encounters, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, and many more). Richard will actually be GM'ing a livestream of the playthrough with Becca Scott and Good Time Society on December 3rd, so we're super excited about that!

As well as the digital adventure, backers will get PDF downloads of all the character sheets, a PDF template to create their own characters, and a reading-accessible character sheet template, too. There's also a PDF map pack including three highly detailed, print-ready maps based on the Grand Academy.

We've also got a Kickstarter exclusive First Class Dice Add-on which, I'll be honest, we probably went a little overboard on. They're bespoke dice cast in ruby red and sapphire blue ombre, filled with glitter, and inked with gold, and they come in a navy dice bag embroidered with the gold Grand Academy shield. But who doesn't love math rocks?!

(Photo: Steamforged)

One of the interesting parts about Adventures & Academia is that each "house" of the school is dedicated to three D&D classes. How did you decide which character class went into which house, and do the houses have any specific rivalries with each other or mechanical benefits from choosing one house over another?

Lishman: Picking the classes for each house was a super fun decision to make, but also important. Once we broke each class down into its core mechanics, we found it was actually quite simple to assign each class to a house.

The hardest was figuring out where the Druid fit. As a spellcaster imbued with the power of nature, they fit into both Divine and Arcane. But with their focus on preserving balance and a 'greater purpose', we decided they'd be more at home with Clerics and Paladins in House Divine. 

There are mechanical benefits all students gain, and additional benefits based on their house. They gain proficiency in at least two house-based skills, and an ability to reroll a d20. House Might, for example, gets proficiency in Athletics and Perception and can reroll a d20 relating to a Weapon Attack or Saving Throw relating to Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

Because a student's house is based on their class, the house rewards them for and enables them to take more risks and enhance their unique skill sets, rather than providing any kind of advantage over others.

That said, from a lore perspective, there are certainly rivalries between each house! Although, they're mostly between the founders. For example, in the lore, it's well known that on his flying visits to the Academy, the Founder of House Might — Tizon, the sentient magical sword —  never misses an opportunity to tell a story of the folly of Selene, the founder of House Divine. Apparently, the two can't even agree on how much they don't like each other!

Mechanically, though, we've developed rules where you can pick other characters as either your Best Friend or Rival. This'll give you the opportunity to roll advantage to either assist or protect your friend, or against your rival to get the edge in a competition.

Each miniature in Adventures & Academia represents a specific character as opposed to a generic miniature type. How did you decide on the personality and backstory for these characters, and why did you opt for creating miniatures for characters instead of opting for something more generic?

Lishman: Tabletop roleplaying games are an amazing way to explore brand new characters, and embrace player freedom and creativity. But for me personally, I find it's not always easy starting from a blank canvas.

There are plenty of options for generic miniatures out there. With Adventures & Academia, we wanted to provide a set of finely-crafted and thoughtfully designed characters for people to use as a launchpad for their own fantastic adventures and stories.

Right from the start, we were intent on pouring love and care into each student's design and backstory. We wanted to provide a relatable, accessible, and easily playable range of miniatures for new and younger players, while also creating a special-but-familiar experience for experienced roleplaying gamers.

Are there plans to expand Adventures & Academia past the First Class set, similar to how Animal Adventures now has multiple campaign setting books and adventures?

Lishman: It would be absolutely amazing to expand on Adventures & Academia! We can already envision so many fantastic directions we could take it in, and it'd be an absolute delight to bring more colourful, diverse experiences to the tabletop community.

With the Kickstarter already funded and over 1,300 amazing people strong, every single pledge brings us closer to a future that holds more stories, miniatures, and adventures surrounding the world of the Grand Academy.

Magical schools seem to be particularly relevant to TTRPGs right now, with multiple streaming series and products touching on the magical school trope. Why do you think that magic schools seem to be popping up so often right now?

Lishman: Life really is a learning experience, and almost everyone can relate to their own experiences of school.

I like to think using a school theme creates the perfect bridge between reality and fantasy. It's something familiar that many of us have experienced, but being used in a way that teaches you something new, wonderful, and magical.

It's also a very social experience, with playing games, make-believe, friendships, rivalries, competitions — all elements that go hand-in-hand with roleplaying and providing opportunities for character interactions.

From many settings found in popular culture, video games, and anime, schools really provide that perfect melting pot of social skills, activities, and learning. And I think a lot of creatives draw on that familiar experience.


The Kickstarter for Adventures & Academia has already exceeded 300% of its funding goal as of press time.

You can check out the full Kickstarter campaign here.