Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for July! This month sees game projects a little thin on the ground, as many people are off at the beach, not running Kickstarters. To make it worse, the dastardly Seamus stole a great Kickstarter, Blackwind Project, out from under my nose and reviewed it already! The nerve! (It’s a Halfling-eat-Halfling world out there. Hence the name. – Ed.) Well, I’ve still managed to gather up ten projects, though there are a few honorable mentions in there to bulk it up. Have no fear though, dear reader: there’s a lot of good stuff in here, and that’s doubly true if you like supers, dieselpunk, or eating game pieces.
Just in case you didn’t have enough genre crossover in your life, Dark Times is cyberpunk/supers. The premise actually makes a lot of sense: supers are created by a biotech conglomerate, and as a result corporations are trying to own those super-abilities. The game’s setting leans hard into dystopian, but offers a recognizably cyberpunk gameplay loop: your characters are supers, owned by a corporation and doing their dirty work while trying to figure out how to get escape. The setting looks a little broad-brushed and derivative for a cyberpunk fanboy (such as myself), but that may actually work well in creating a comic book vibe to go along with all the superpowers. Check this out, but be warned: all the stretch goals are for expanded content, which is often a very difficult thing to pull off if the Kickstarter is too successful.
Survive the Night is a fairly simple d6-based horror RPG. Having been in development for almost five years now, the game’s reception and continuous polish make a strong argument, in spite of the fairly broad premise. While there’s not much to go off of in the Kickstarter campaign, the developers do claim that the complexity of the game comes from its story. I am intrigued…and with as much history and critical exposure as this game has gotten, I think it’s worth a look. Word of advice to the developers: I liked the sample page you guys released, but I’d love to get an idea of what the rules look like! Let me see what makes the game unique.
Dragonscales is a new fantasy RPG from James Ward, known best for creating both Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World. This new game uses a card-based mechanic to portray fantasy heroes in a world of powerful dragons. While the setting looks fairly run-of-the-mill, solid designers and an interesting core mechanic may make this one worth checking out.
Taking cues from Fiasco and The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Boast is a storytelling game. Not a game that makes a story, rather a game where your characters tell stories. Taking place after the golden age of piracy, your characters are pirates with nothing to do but sit around and tell stories of the good old days . . . and drink. Using Event, Location, Treasure, and Fate cards, the pirates will tell stories of their escapades, and buy drinks for the most amazing stories. Having already been through several design revisions Boast looks very polished, and will likely fit in nicely with other GM-less, single-sitting games.
“A Dieselpunk Mecha RPG”, Fragged takes place in a fictionalized world embroiled in a conflict that looks remarkably like World War II. It’s even 1945 in their world. Odd . . . ANYWAY. Fragged has a lovingly detailed setting, in which players take the roles of nomadic mercenaries piloting giant mecha across the battlefield. Based on Fragged Empire, Fragged takes a rules-medium system with detail in the right places and adds a dieselpunk setting that combines World War II proxies with just enough occultism to keep it interesting.
Survive This: Vigilante City is a Supers game, in the vein of 90s cartoons like Batman and the X-Men. What makes it interesting, though, is that it’s an OSR game in the vein of games like Stars Without Number, using the basic mechanics of old-school D&D to emulate a completely different genre. The game does seem to take after the SWN formula, including modular rules for different hero types and a ”Villain’s Guide” filled with generators and random tables for bottom-up gaming. Add in a design team with some experience and old-school game chops, and this could be a great Supers experience.
Velvet Generation is an RPG set in a dystopian future. When aliens come to Earth in search of music, they find that culture has been crushed and is being controlled by the oppressive Ministry of Music. Playing either as one of the alien Starchildren or a rebellious Earthling, your characters form bands and try to keep music alive while avoiding the Ministry’s surveillance state. While this is a second edition of the original game which was released in 2002, this version has a completely new ruleset, emphasizing a balance between collaborating with your bandmates and competing to get more of the spotlight. Add in a threat-based campaign system and possible worldbuilding tools (currently a stretch goal), and you have a recipe for Rock n’ Roll revolution.
The Crusades is a historical roleplaying game set in, well, the Crusades. What makes this interesting is that the designer is looking at all angles for intrigue around lords who set off for the Holy Land in this time period. So this means mass battles, of course, but also realm management, social intrigue, and possibly some Venetian moneylenders, all held together by historical commentary. This game is exceedingly ambitious (maybe too ambitious for its one-man team and modest funding goal), but could be an outstanding addition to the historical RPG corpus if it happens.
While technically only a reprint (hence the honorable mention status), Advanced Labyrinth Lord is a new version of the Labyrinth Lord retroclone that combines the Labyrinth Lord core book and the Advanced Edition Compendium into one volume. In addition to being one of the definitive D&D retroclones, Labyrinth Lord’s Advanced Edition Compendium also manages the tough task of making AD&D backwards-compatible with Basic D&D (or rather, their Labyrinth Lord counterparts). This is likely a great book for any OSR fan’s collection.
Not really an RPG, but definitely something that’s new and clever. Edible Games is exactly what it sounds like: games that you bake and then eat. There is a sample chapter that shows the mechanics of one of the games, as well as the recipes, and the writing for both is top-notch. Beyond that, the designer was a member of the team for the excellent Thimbleweed Park, so I expect to see a number of interesting designs in this book. As a warning: in case it wasn’t made clear by reading the mechanics of the sample game, this will ruin any diet plan you’re on.
While deep into summer vacation, there are still designers out there, working hard and trying to bring their games into the world. This month did see a few other second edition releases (more recent than Velvet Generation though; its 16-year timeframe earned it a pass), as well as tons of 5e material and some neat game aids like the Game Master’s Tome. Even the Mad Adventurers are wandering through Kickstarter, with The Angry GM developing a project that’s live now. Even if it’s summer now, fall is coming, and with it the developers are coming home from break. Hold onto your wallets!