Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! February is the month of romance, and I think you’ll find plenty to love with a deeper field of new RPGs than we had in January. In addition to nine completely new games people are trying to bring to life, we have two honorable mentions: First, a new edition of an old game that deserves some recognition, and second, a board game which is trying to make RPG elements a primary part of its design.
Good Society: A Jane Austen Roleplaying Game
Intended to create characters and scenarios out of Jane Austen’s novels, Good Society appears to be a heavily narrative game, using “Resolve Tokens” as a meta-currency to drive which characters get to shape the outcome of given scenes. Each character is defined by their character role, their background, their relationship and their secret desire. The game is driven more by social interaction, scandal and rumor than it is by swords or fists, which helps make the intended experience unique compared to many RPGs out there. Also bolstering the authors’ case are a $5 price of entry and immediately available quickstart. Regency drama may not be my thing, but I think this looks incredibly well executed. Check out the actual play videos online and see if Good Society ticks any of your boxes.
Sagas of Midgard
Sagas of Midgard is a Norse-themed RPG. This is already a point in the authors’ favor; I have historically backed things that are Norse-themed without having any expectation of ever playing them (*cough* Middarmark *cough*). The game combines Norse mythology with Viking raids for a compelling story base, but what pops out for me initially is the character creation. The idea of your name selecting some of your abilities is intriguing and helps add to the flavor that the authors are going for. The rune system for magic is also interesting, creating a basic three-section “verbal magic” system.
The raiding mechanics are described as a method to make travel more dynamic, but they’re also centered around a settlement that can grow in power and ability as the game progresses. This is somewhat akin to Mutant: Year Zero, though of course with a very different flavor. To round out the game, we have artifacts that change not only your character’s abilities but their personality, and a world based on Scandinavia, but with its own unique cultural spin.
I think this looks pretty cool. $25 is a steep entry price for a PDF, but not to such a degree that I’d begrudge the authors for aiming at that price point. I’m contemplating funding this game, but the price point and my own gaming schedule make that a tad iffy. For now, it’s a save and return to later. If you’re looking for a game steeped in Norse mythology, though, I wouldn’t hesitate: these guys funded quickly and with good reason.
The Keyring RPG
The Keyring RPG is a gaming system that fits on a Keyring. After the success of the Index Card RPG, this downsizing seems like a logical next step. While there isn’t much information about the mechanics in the campaign, I’m heartened to see that the game had a small print run in Swedish, which sold out entirely.
This looks incredibly neat, and less than $20 (at current exchange rates) gets you a print copy of the game. However, I see some potential drawbacks…not in the game itself, but in the Kickstarter execution. First, free shipping internationally. I love that they offer it, I fear it’ll be their financial downfall. Second, a number of stretch goals involving loads of extra writing. Four extra settings is a ton of extra work…I hope the team is on board to put in a lot of extra hours for surprisingly minimal extra pay.
This is another one I’ve saved…I like the idea of portable games, though my need for them is less than what would make this an auto-fund for me. However, if you’re the type of person who likes having a portable RPG in their everyday carry, I’d fund this without hesitation.
John Carter of Mars
John Carter of Mars is a new pulp game from Modiphius. With the Edgar Rice Burroughs setting and the Modiphius 2d20 system (used in Mutant Chronicles, Star Trek Adventures, and Conan), John Carter of Mars is likely to be another high-quality entry in the Modiphius library. I know I’m not saying much here, but as a major publisher’s release on an extant house system, I don’t think there’s much to worry about. If you’re a fan of pulp gaming or the 2d20 system, this should be an auto-fund.
Vital Hearts is a game that takes the core conceit of Sword Art Online (or if you’re a bit older, .hack): you are both your avatar in a rich online world as well as the somewhat more normal person behind that avatar. Not only are you concerned with the combat stats of your avatar, but social media and hacking campaigns around the game which affect your theoretically normal core persona. And of course, nothing is as normal as it seems.
The authors of Vital Hearts are Sanguine Productions, a studio responsible for a number of game over the years, including Farflung and one I remember from a long while back, Ironclaw. The system behind Vital Hearts is apparently the same basic one used for Ironclaw, which is both reassuring given the amount of play it’s received, and worrisome because I played Ironclaw in high school (and trust me, readers, that wasn’t that recently). I think the system looks interesting, and I very much like the core metaplot behind it. My hope is that the Cardinal Engine has been updated, possibly significantly, in the intervening 19 years since Ironclaw was released. If you’re a fan of anime games, or Sword Art Online specifically, this is probably worth a look.
The author claims 14 years of playtesting in this fantasy RPG that looks, at first blush, to be a very intriguing mashup. When you go and click on the link above, do yourself a favor and scroll past the system description, which was vague enough that I feared I had wandered into heartbreaker territory. To be fair, I may still have, but if you’re with me and keep scrolling, you’ll get to the character sheet. What are we looking at here? Why, it’s a D&D/Storyteller mashup. That’s the only true way to explain it. The system appears to strike a decent balance between granularity and playability, though I’m intensely curious about what the mechanical difference is between “Trained Skills” and “Abilities”.
For about $12 (at current exchange rates), you can help these guys out and get a copy of their core book. The game looks really pretty (the artists linked deserve to be checked out whether you want to fund the game or not), but I can’t tell from the campaign what the game will add to the RPG corpus. With a quickstart guide or some examples of play, it would be a lot easier for me to recommend Ascendant Destiny on design. Even without that, it’s clear that these guys have put a lot of work into every aspect of their game.
Suen Ikna: The Known Lands
WOW. Just…wow. I guess I’ve saved the best for last here? This is an incredibly ambitious fantasy game that is unlike anything else I’ve seen. The author has constructed a language, written some extremely not-Tolkien races, and created a lot of elements that make Suen Ikna look very different than other fantasy games I’ve seen. The kicker here, if you scroll all the way down past the alphabet, the very nice character renderings, and the maps, is a NINE HUNDRED PAGE DOCUMENT that serves as the SRD for this yet-to-be-released game.
I’ve gone through dribs and drabs, and it appears that the system is a serviceable, though a bit overly complex, class-and-level system, replete with some interesting subsystems that flesh things out. Backing the system, though, is a lovingly created world with tons of detail, and a lot of originality.
I’ve decided to back this game. It’s not because I think I’m going to play it more than any of the others here, I’m not sure it’s even because I think it’s better than any of the other games. However, what is here is a unique vision for a world that will enrich the gaming community if it exists. The author has allocated a good chunk of his funding to a layout designer and copyeditor; if I were him I’d double that editing allocation for a good gameplay editor. This behemoth also likely needs playtesting. When all is said and done, though, I say these things because I want Suen Ikna to see the light of day, and to have a good game behind it. Tariq, you’ve created something really neat here; I’m backing your project so that more people will see it and it will get the polish it deserves.
Trinity Continuum: Aeon (Honorable Mention)
Trinity Continuum is the latest edition of Trinity, a game that first showed up in 1997. Set in the same universe as the games Aberrant and Adventure!, Trinity was designed for a more action-oriented gameplay style than most Storyteller games, which may help explain why it was ported to d20 in 2004. Now, Onyx Path is picking it up, and hopefully taking another old White Wolf property to a much needed rebirth. I can only hope this won’t interfere with the release schedule of Exalted Third Edition’s Dragonblooded supplement…
Dice Odyssey (Honorable Mention)
Dice Odyssey is a hybrid boardgame/RPG according to the Kickstarter description. Digging a bit deeper it looks much more like a boardgame than an RPG, albeit one with RPG elements in the style of Shadows of Brimstone and others. It also looks gorgeous, so I thought it would be worth noting. If Dice Odyssey does promise on delivering the storytelling aspects of RPGs in a boardgame format, it could be a really solid product…at $70 to get in on the Kickstarter, though, I personally will wish them well and look out for Dice Odyssey when it’s a finished product.
Man oh man, what a month this is! As you may guess, I write my posts and finalize them a few days ahead of the post date. This month, two Kickstarter campaigns began between when I queued my post and the Wednesday post time. Vagabonds of Dyfed is a hybrid old-school game, taking the dice mechanics from PbtA and marrying it to an old-school aesthetic. It looks like an intriguing lightweight game, but also likely an object lesson that there’s much more to PbtA than just the dice mechanics. Age of AEther mates the Steampunk-plus-Fantasy setting of Victoriana with the stepped dice mechanics of Savage Worlds and Cortex in a solid package with a $10 entry point for the PDF. Both of these games look like solid efforts, though neither stand out enough for me to back them. Still, if those games sound intriguing to you, check them out!
This month saw more products than January, and unlike January also had some tentpoles! Onyx Path and Modiphius are getting their publication schedules rolling, but don’t let the big guys overshadow some of the other projects here. Sagas of Midgard, Good Society, and Suen Ikna all stood out to me this month, and the rest make up a solid crop all around. I will once again note Suen Ikna in particular, I have backed this project to help get this unique fantasy world in front of more people.
As I thought, it looks like there’s a lot to love about the games being backed in February. Have more thoughts? Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know in the comments! Any 15-day Kickstarters falling through the cracks of this monthly format? Let me know on Twitter!
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