I follow my favourite publishers, of course – and those are (currently) Pelgrane Press, Evil Hat, Chaosium, Fria Ligan, Modiphius and (to a lesser extent) Pinnacle – but that doesn’t help me find the truly new RPGs, really. While I’m not a fan of separating out the whole “indy” scene (lets face it, apart from Hasbro’s WoC and Asmodee’s FFG, every RPG company, even those I listed above, is “indy”), there is a stream of really excellent work coming out of very small one and two person companies that can get drowned out by the publicity machines of the bigger players. There are many of them, and their reach, publicity wise, relies on networks and serendipity. I would hang out at The Forge but, I’m not a creator, and I don’t have time to get involved in alpha testing. What I want to hear about have got to be close to becoming finished products.
And of course, I have to admit that there are many games out there I’m not interested in. The access to the market enjoyed by individuals is better than it’s ever been, but that does mean that some individuals can waste my time with games that are either not very good, or not to my taste. So I want a curated experience.
And I’m finding that Kickstarter is that curated experience. Lots of people complain that what started as a way for artists to seek patronage has become merely an escrow account for pre-orders, and some complain when established companies who should simply manage their money better come shaking the begging bowl for their next production. But I don’t mind any of that, if its a way to manage risk, then any sensible company should consider it.
Using Kickstarter though, does not just mitigate risk, it also crowdsources feedback on nascent projects, it shapes projects before they launch on the site but also afterwards as, backers in vest not just their money but also their time, commenting and sharing the project among their own networks. It brings projects that might, in the old days, have sold a few dozen copies to a potential audience of thousands. It brings projects to my attention that I might never have heard of.
For example, one of the first RPGs I backed, in 2014, was Night Witches. I haven’t played it yet – at the time I was playing with a group that included 40-odd year old men, undergraduate students and one 13 year old girl and the idea of getting them to play lesbian lovers on the eastern front creeped me out – but I really want to. It doesn’t matter if I don’t though, because I get a warm feeling knowing that I helped turn an idea into a great, beautifully illustrated (see above) book.
Of course there are plenty of projects that I don’t support (I’m not made of money). I remember being interested in Monte Cooke’s Numanera, the illustrations and backstory for which were reminiscent of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. But in the end I decided it wasn’t for me, because mechanically it wasn’t bringing anything new to my gaming life. Instead I went for a far more innovative, experimental, risky project that paid off: Autstralian Phil Day’s SoL. There’s something about all the discussions, videos and previews etc that surround a Kickstarter project that enables potential customers to make an informed decision on such matters. Other projects I might decide not to support at the time, but look forward to buying when it reaches retail. One such is Fate, which didn’t exactly need my support – it did so well you can now pay what you want (including nothing) for the PDF.
If I have one problem with Kickstarter, its that it doesn’t have a category for RPGs. Instead I have to flick through the tabletop gaming category to see whats new. That’s the reason I’ve started what I hope will be a regular fortnighly column on my blog, pulling together and sharing the new RPG rulesets.