Kickstarter Wonk: October, 2019

Last month was famine. Instead of putting together a Kickstarter Wonk article at all, I wrote briefly on why Tabletop RPG Kickstarters fail. This month is feast. There are ten games below, and I can say genuinely that there are 2-3 more that easily would have made the cut as well. A great number of campaigns, and I’m probably spending a bit more money than usual this month. Speaking of money. There’s been some turmoil over at the Kickstarter corporate office, mostly involving a distasteful activity called ‘union-busting’. Kickstarter employees are trying to unionize, and someone upstairs fired two of the organizers. Not good, guys. Not good at all. 

Nonetheless, Kickstarter campaigns are primarily about the creators. Beyond that, the process to get a union formally recognized is fraught, so even if the company is making distasteful (read: bad) decisions regarding the rights of their workers, the creators on the platform and the broader business as a whole shouldn’t necessarily suffer. For one thing, it makes that whole organizing thing that much harder if there’s evidence that organizing a union is impeding business. The intent of organized labor is to make productive compromises between a company and its employees, and a preemptive boycott fails at that. Therefore I am still here, still promoting Kickstarter campaigns, and still spending some money to support the excellent creators on the platform. If you’re interested in supporting Kickstarter United and are a project creator, you can sign a petition here. After you’ve done that, read on, because there are some really great games out this month.

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Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy Review

Not everyone is so lucky as to be an ace pilot the moment that they fall into the cockpit. Some have gotten as far as they have due to a lifetime of training and experience. Yet for all of their grizzled charm and “oh you sweet summer child” attitude, they had to start somewhere. Something had to hone those instincts and prepare them for the battle at hand, and this week, we get to find out what. Strap back in for this supplement of Evil Hat’s starfighter RPG Tachyon Squadron in Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy.

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Shadowrun Sixth World Review

Old games never die, they just get new editions. Some games take big design steps and then walk them back (D&D, WFRP), while others start forking out into multiple, concurrent editions (Traveller and RuneQuest). Others still just revise every concurrent edition, walking a tight balance between satisfying the fanboys and making the game accessible to those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy it the last time around. No game is better suited to tell this perilous story than Shadowrun. Shadowrun was born in the late 80s around the same time as Cyberpunk, but took to that genre with its own twist, adding in magic and Tolkienesque “metahuman” races. Originally developed by FASA, the same design studio behind Battletech, Shadowrun has always had wargaming roots show through by virtue of its complexity and level of detail. This both gained it many fans as well as an intimidating reputation, especially when we’re talking about the first three editions of the game.

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Indie Frontiers #1: Developer Spotlight

Welcome to Indie Frontiers, the new article series spotlighting up-and-coming Indie RPG designers and their games. This is the place where we will explore the cutting-edge of game design; the place where we fearlessly read the most experimental RPG’s you can find! Join me on my Sisyphean quest to read all the games emerging on itch.io, and become a part of the Indie RPG revolution.

Today we will be looking at four designers: Jared Sinclair, Jay Dragon, Riley Hopkins, and Kienna Shaw. Let’s get started.

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Band of Blades Review

The Battle of Ettenmark was supposed to be the end of it. A great host of armies from the Eastern Kingdoms marching west, led by the divinely-blessed Chosen, to strike down the Cinder King and his undead host once and for all. Instead, it was a slaughter. Some of the Chosen were Broken in the previous conflcits, and no one was prepared for the horrors they’ve created for their new liege. Now the Legion is a mercenary band all on its own – except for a single Chosen who helped to pull it out of the fire. Command has decided that the company’s only hope is to march back east, making for Skydagger Keep. If it can be reached, the Legion might just be able to hold the undead back long enough for the Eastern Kingdoms to find some way to save humanity. But the Broken are in pursuit, and winter is closing in . . . it’s going to be a hard campaign for this Band of Blades from Off Guard Games and Evil Hat Productions!

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RPG Market Data is a Mess

There’s a lot of reasons people say that the RPG hobby is in a golden age right now. Increased legitimacy of the hobby in general, new audiences reaching games through streaming and podcasts, and an exploding variety of types and titles of games make for a more diverse and dynamic hobby than we’ve ever had before. But what do we actually know about the hobby and how it’s growing? What do we know about the competitive dynamics of the industry, from Wizards of the Coast down to the one-man shops? The simple answer to “what do we know” is “not much”. Finding real data about this hobby of ours is a struggle—and that’s when it isn’t downright impossible.

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Freeform Dramatic Roleplay

LARPs are all about getting dressed up, either with groups of people who got in heavily costumed and shouting spells while others wailed away on each with foam swords or actively plotting about the plots against their domains or the biggest threat to the Freehold with earnest index cards and play rock papers scissors, right? Well, just as there are innumerable styles of play, and people willing to experiment with design of more traditional tabletop formats, there are people who like to play around with how to run different styles of LARP, and I wound up stumbling into a freeform style that prioritizes how people get and stay in character, and what they do to make a story interesting entirely over mechanics.

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Warhammer Fantasy: Rough Nights and Hard Days Review

The year was 1987, and mad science was brewing in the offices of White Dwarf magazine. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay developer Graeme Davis held, in one hand, a steaming vial containing the concentrated essence of hundreds of schemes, plot twists, and capers. In the other, he held the core rulebook for WFRP 1st Edition. With a cackle and a grin, he poured the vial over the rulebook, pulled an ominous lever on the wall and a bolt of lightning crashed through a skylight to give birth to his new creation.

…Or something like that. The details may have been different, but the end result was the adventure A Rough Night at the Three Feathers. Up to this point, roleplaying modules focused on a single plot thread – an evil wizard kidnaps a princess, the king sets the heroes a quest, a dragon terrorizes a town, etc. Graeme wanted to see if multiple plots in a single story could work as well as they did on film when translated to roleplaying games. Judging by audience reactions, he was on to something, as A Rough Night at the Three Feathers continues to be one of the best remembered rpg modules of all time.

With the release of WFRP 4th edition, Graeme and the rest of the development team decided to update the original Rough Night alongside two sequel stories he’d written in the decades since, and add two more adventures in the same vein for good measure. The end product is Rough Nights and Hard Daysthe subject of today’s review. Does the original hold up to modern rpg standards? And can this concept survive more than one game session? Let’s dive in and find out!

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Cyberpunk Chimera Non-Combat Mechanics

Tabletop RPGs evolved from wargames, which has somewhat stunted their growth with regards to most conflicts which don’t involve killing things. As board games show us, though, we can easily develop satisfying mechanics for a whole range of things other than combat. For the Cyberpunk Chimera, we’re envisioning a world that, while potentially violent and dystopic, doesn’t center around monsters or a national enemy or anything else that assumes that the majority of problems can be solved by killing.

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Cannibal Halfling Radio Episode 1 – Episode Zero

ENnie-Nominated Cannibal Halfling Gaming breaks out of the written word and invades the airwaves with Cannibal Halfling Radio!

That sound pretty fancy. Really, we just want to find our podcasting legs and talk about some games. Aaron, Jason, and Seamus talk about some CHG goings-ons, what they’ve been playing, and shine a spotlight on a malevolent haberdashery in Episode 1: Episode Zero.

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