Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for November! What am I thankful for? Well, I’m thankful that not only was November a bumper crop of games on Kickstarter, but it was also one where there were a large number of really solid offerings. Whether you try and take over the moon or try and explore your Jewish identity, this month’s Kickstarters were for a huge number of really diverse games. Check out the descriptions below, and consider what sort of game either tickles your fancy or stretches your mind.
“In the quiet village of Ravenswood Bluff, a demon walks amongst you… During a hellish thunderstorm, on the stroke of midnight, there echoes a bone-chilling scream. The townsfolk rush to investigate and find the town storyteller murdered, their body impaled on the hands of the clocktower, blood dripping onto the cobblestones below. A Demon is on the loose, murdering by night and disguised in human form by day. Some have scraps of information. Others have abilities that fight the evil or protect the innocent. But the Demon and its evil minions are spreading lies to confuse and breed suspicion. Will the good townsfolk put the puzzle together in time to execute the true demon and save themselves? Or will evil overrun this once peaceful village?” In order to answer those questions, you’ll have to give the bluffing and deduction game known as Blood on the Clocktower a try!
It’s Devil’s night, and a warm wind is blowing. Carousers and arsonists swarm through the streets, thinking themselves at the top of the food chain. How wrong they are. Still, caution is deserved…all it takes is one of them getting a bit too happy with one of those smartphones, and suddenly new foes are on your doorstep. It used to be that a Kindred only had to worry about others of their kind, or some of the other supernatural creatures that bumped in the night. Mortals were catspaws, beneath notice, the few hunters more of a distraction for all but the most careless of the Kinde. That was before Vienna and London. Now, no Kindred with half a brain underestimates them…which seemingly excludes a shocking number of your Elders. Still, their (un?)timely Final Death serves a purpose: finally, finally, finally there are holes at the top, room to advance, to actually make some real change. But until then…well, needs must be met: A Beast you are, lest a Beast you become. You spy an increasingly drunk punk rocker type, working through his second bottle of liquor as he stumbles down a side street. Yes, he’ll do nicely…
As I’ve wandered into the Indie Frontiers this past year, I’ve heard tales of a fabled place where indie RPG designers gather from across the land: Big Bad Con. This yearly tabletop and LARP convention is hosted in Walnut Creek, CA, a short seven hour drive from my home in Los Angeles. I had never been to an RPG convention before, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. I left LA with a backpack full of dice and a mission—a mission to interview as many up-and-coming indie RPG designers as I could find.
Today’s interviewees: JR Goldberg, Viditya Voleti, Riley Rethal, Dee Pennyway, and Kurt Potts.
The RPG space is filled with unchecked assumptions regarding what gaming groups actually do. We already know that market information is hard to find, but it’s even harder to find information on how people consume whichever RPGs they choose to consume. Are they playing mostly in organized games hosted at game stores? With a group of friends at someone’s home? At cons? How often do they play? How many different systems do they try? We have, as one of my players once said, no hard data but a lot of assumptions and circumstantial evidence. The one element which is most significantly reflected in how games are actually designed is how long a discrete ‘game’ or ‘campaign’ is intended to be played.
Cyberpunk as a literary genre has many touchstones, like the role of corporations in society and humanity’s relationship with technology. These have trickled down to tabletop games in different ways, but certain tropes keep coming up. Cybernetic enhancement is *the* subsystem for cyberpunk games, and has generally succeeded in early cyberpunk games where hacking, a complementary subsystem, often failed. Cyberware stands in for magic in most cyberpunk games, giving the characters access to superhuman power, though at a cost. In addition to cyberware, there is usually a digital world aspect of cyberpunk games, adjacent to but not always overlapping with the hacking rules. In early works this was a completely separate virtual world, while in modern games, there is much more focus on augmented reality, and the digital commingling with the real.
I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.
A fighter whose armor and weapons glow with the power of runic magic, granting the strength of giants. A ranger who can call upon a swarm of spirits to aid them and tear their enemies to shreds. A rogue who is back from the dead but has no idea how they got there – or why. Unearthed Arcana completes the set for its latest wave of character options for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons with one each for the fighter, ranger, and rogue. Whether using the strength of titans, swarms of bees, or the knowledge of the dead, let’s see what they have to offer!
“Your world will fall unless you risk it all. Are you ready to collaboratively design a world you must defend? Create powerful characters destined to fight the ever-present Darkness? Solve challenges, fight battles, and risk death and injury to save the realm? Heroic Dark is a build-your-own setting game about heroes defying the forces of darkness that threaten their world. The GM and players work together to tell a one-of-a-kind story about danger, sacrifice, and hopefully victory.” The odds are against you. The ending is uncertain. But if this opening pitch catches your eye, then you might find yourself one of those brave enough to fight the good fight in a setting of your own making with Heroic Dark!
Role-playing games are a delightfully analog hobby; the best parts of coming together with your friends to roll dice and tell stories cannot be duplicated by digital media. The way we play, though, has changed, with forums and voice chat programs and online dice rollers all giving us ways to use technology to enhance the RPG experience. When it comes to the actual reference materials, progress has been uneven. Online SRDs and paywalled content providers like D&D Beyond show we at least acknowledge that digital reference materials can look different, but the majority of game PDFs out there are just books, barely improved from the days when RPG PDFs were made with a scanner.