This is the first in a regular series of posts where I survey Kickstarter (to begin with – other crowd-sourcing sites might also be included in future posts) to pull out what’s happening in the tabletop RPG sector. Kickstarter has contributed to a golden age for roleplayers, enabling translations foreign language games like current fave Coriolis, reissues and updates of classics like Unknown Armies, and opportunities for new games to reach a broad market. I’m going to be looking at RPG rulesets, generally not accessories, mini-figures or boardgames, though occasionally one or two of those will catch my interest enough to get featured.
My writing about anything here is not an endorsement, neither to I plan to dissuade you from supporting anything. I’m just bringing things that look interesting to your attention – its entirely up to you to make the decision whether or not to kick in. Personally having bought already too many games to play, I’m hoping that these blog posts will scratch my Kickstarter itch, without me having to buy anything.
Lets kick off with two British RPGs. Spire is apparently “D&D crossed with Unknown Armies” set in an urban distopia, you play Dark Elves, rebelling against your High Elf overlords. Rules are tightly bound with setting, and seem to involve a d10, pool-based resolution with echoes of Cortex plus. It comes from Rowan Rook and Decard, indie developers you might have heard of with games like Unbound and One Last Job under their belt. Already funded with twenty days to go, its not for me, but definitely one to check out.
Next up is Legacy: Life Among the Ruins, which feels like a cross between Mutant: Year Zero and Pendragon. It’s “powered by the Apocalypse”, which is to say it uses mechanics from Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. Those who have played PbtA games before will be used to the idea of creating characters by picking up a playbook, making a few choices then getting stuck into the game. In this game you pick up two playbooks, one for your family, and another for each character you play during the decades long, generational saga. This is a second edition, the first having been Kickstarted as a PDF or Print on Demand product a couple of years back. This version, which includes updates to the rules, is looking to be co-published with Modiphius to get it into gaming stores. You can download a quickstart adventure from DriveThru if you want to check it out. The KS campaign has almost doubled its target with 27 days to go.
Speaking of Pendragon, Nocturnal Media are fundraising for Paladin, which applies the same, tried and tested game-system to a more historical period, the reign of Charlemagne. My friends and I have played a single campaign of Pendragon for more than 30 years, so of today’s crop of Kickstarters, this one is the most tempting to me. I don’t think I’d get it for myself, but I’m considering buying it as a gift for our GM. There’s one one thing putting me off. I’m still waiting for the late delivery of a project from the same company, and very sadly the hard-working powerhouse behind Nocturnal, Stewart Wieck, died unexpectedly at just 49 last month. His brother and colleagues have vowed to deliver everything Wieck had promised across a number of projects, but they have their work cut out for them. Stewart had this Kickstarter campaign for PALADIN ready to launch at the time of his death, and many people in their position might have thought it better to cancel or at least postpone the project. But Stewart left behind his wife and four sons, and his brother Steve and colleagues are determined to see this project and all the outstanding ones through for the benefit of backers and Stewart’s surviving family. The illustrations and design so far look lovely, and even if I don’t back it, I wish Nocturnal every success. It doesn’t look like they’ll need my help though, its already almost 500% funded with 28 days to go.
I am soooo not an otaku and even when enjoy anime its rarely (never, to be honest) of the “monstergirl” genre. But if you are, then Heroines of the First Age might just be what you are looking for. Another PbtA game, you play monsters (female or male) at the dawn of creation, everything is fresh and exciting and like many PbtA games the players get to define the world alongside the GM. In fact backers get to design a world too. In an interested conceit, the creators are “putting together a kind of campaign right here on Kickstarter. We’ll be writing and revealing more story and characters as we go and at each stage, Your vote decides who prevails!” With twenty days to go, they are comfortably almost five times over their modest $1000 target. The final product will be PDF and Print on Demand via DriveThru.
Another such Print on Demand game is Gaslight Victorian Fantasy, a setting for Savage Worlds. This is, if you like, the unlicensed RPG of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but with more fantasy races – Dr Moreau’s Beastmen are joined by Ratlings, Pixies, Ratlings and Wildlings. It’s not my cup of tea, but this is the third edition of the game, and its already funded, so at least 98 people enjoy it. 🙂
There are plenty of other historical eras available in Dark Eras 2, for the Chronicles of Darkness RPG. Vampire the Masquerade was the defining game of the 90s, it spawned a a slew of other creature games (my favourite, in my mind the only playable one, was Mage) and the World of Darkness, which tied them all together. Ill-advised ventures into TV and MMORPGs, left the original publisher a shadow of its former self, and intellectual property was passed around. World of Darkness became New World of Darkness and then Chronicles of Darkness. Following the lead set by Vampire: The Dark Age, this book offers historical settings for the whole family of games. Be a ghost or werewolf during the First World War; a vampire or demon in revolutionary France; a Renaissance Mage; an ancient greek faerie or promethean; a Qing Dynasty hunter or Mummy; or a Vampire living the 1001 nights. For many years Onyx path have eschewed retail channels, and relied on PDF and PoD, so if you want a properly printed book for this, Kickstarter is the only way to get it. There are just eight days left, and the project is fully funded.
Another campaign with just a few days to go, only four in fact, is Revolutionaries. In this game you get to take on the role of plucky British Redcoats, working to defend the colonies from terrorist… hold on, no… This is an American game, you take on the role of “Culper” spies, commissioned by George Washington to work against the British. And of course it turns out that behind the Tyrannical Brits, dark supernatural forces may be at work. It looks to have an interesting and different card based character creation/resolution system, that I’d like to explore more. Its got some of the big names behind the aforementioned Vampire: the Masquerade behind it, so I’m surprised that as of writing, this is several hundred dollars short of being funded. I’m really tempted to kick in.
Finally, another game with a short deadline. The Great Rift is a campaign setting and deep space rules expansion for perennial favourite Traveller. If you fancy a more Star Trek style of game, exploring new worlds and civilisations, but in the Third Imperium, then this set might be what you need. There’s a Deep Space exploration supplement, with new rules, and new ships, capable of exploring the Rift, as well as four new sectors with maps and at least two adventures. All in a boxed set. This one is funded, with stretch goals.