Just when you thought it was safe to go back on Kickstarter . . . the lazy relaxed summer of June and July has given way to the insanity of a pre-GenCon product push! There were over twenty Kickstarters of new games, and even after picking out the second editions of recent games (Reign, Geist) and games we’ve already covered, it was still tough to narrow it down to just ten! The ten here represent games that do something new, whether it be through new mechanics or new ideas for settings. There are also a couple revivals, which are more than mere second editions due to long absences from publication as well as dramatic rules revisions. All in all, this set of ten Kickstarters represents a swathe of games that are giving us something new with rules, genre, or format.
Oddity High takes the PbtA subgenre of “dramatic teenagers” and brings it to its logical extreme. Oddity High is a game about students in a typical anime high school, who may need to worry about attending classes with ghosts, aliens, and psychics, while still dealing with classes, clubs, and maybe even romance. The mechanics take the typical playbooks and split them, giving you both a real-life playbook and an other-life playbook. If you’ve ever wanted to play a model student who’s also an android, or an otaku with a secret identity, this may very well be the game for you. Only $8 gets you a PDF for this project which has already met its modest funding goal. First-timer Derek Ehlman seems to have this down, and I look forward to seeing the final product.
On the exact opposite end of the experience spectrum from Oddity High, we have The Fantasy Trip. Steve Jackson recently recaptured the rights to his first RPG via his adept knowledge of US copyright law, and now he and the rest of the Steve Jackson Games crew are bringing it back into publication. The Fantasy Trip is the mechanical predecessor to GURPS, which makes it sound odd that it’s heavily driven by easy character creation and quick, tactical combat. Still, like Champions Now, The Fantasy Trip is a great way to see what tricks old-school gaming (especially old-school gaming of neither dungeons nor dragons) has up its sleeve. It may be because of my long history of GURPS adoration, but I backed this game at the box set level. You, though, can get all of the PDFs for a $25 entry fee.
The Expanse is a popular series of novels which has recently turned into a TV show. What you may not have known was that The Expanse started as a tabletop RPG campaign before any of its other iterations. Now, The Expanse is coming full circle with a new system using Green Ronin’s AGE system. Using the newest iteration, Modern AGE, the developers at Green Ronin have consulted closely with the authors to come up with a game that is faithful to the original material. $20 gets you a PDF, but if you’re uncertain you can check out a 40 page quickstart without having to make a pledge.
Zombie World is the latest game from Brendan Conway, best known for his work on Masks: A New Generation. Zombie World is also a PbtA game but is structured quite differently, using cards to provide new twists for each game. The cards help with random character generation, as well as providing events that supplement GM Moves when something interesting happens. To add further and lean in to popular conventions of the zombie genre, the game is centered around an enclave, giving the party a range of benefits and challenges. Zombie World is a very different approach to PbtA, and for $25 you can pledge and get a copy of the physical game.
Demon City is a horror game, intended to cover the whole range of conceits within the genre. Developed and illustrated by Zak Smith, the author of Vornheim (and many others), the game aims to provide everything you need to easily run a horror game, including a range of horrors and supernatural abilities, a card-based resolution mechanic (with a dice-based workaround), and the hallmark of Vornheim, a wide array of random tables and charts to give your game a nice injection of random flavor. The previews of the book look absolutely gorgeous, and the final product should deliver on the promise of being both a coffee table book and an RPG. $15 will get you a PDF copy, though the production values strongly favor going for the $60 hardcover tier.
Esoterica is a game of occult power. Characters are caught in a cycle of ascension to power and corruption, which forces them to pursue rare artifacts, Soul Jars. The game is written using the OpenD6 system, resulting in a more traditional experience than other games of this setting conceit like Urban Shadows and Unknown Armies. The author does have some development experience in OpenD6, and this should result in an intriguing game. Ten pounds gets you a PDF copy, which should be $13 give or take in US currency.
John Silence is both a fiction anthology and an RPG, covering people of color who are also psychic detectives throughout the 20th century. In addition to focusing on marginalized people, John Silence also eschews violence completely, instead building out a game system that focuses on rhetoric, investigation, and conversation. With a setting based on an Algernon Blackwood novel from 1908, John Silence approaches the RPG genre from several new angles, emphasizing people who are usually overlooked and turning the preferred mode of action completely on its head. $16 will get you a PDF copy of this intriguing book.
Over the Edge originally came out over 25 years ago. By designer and Wizards alum Jonathan Tweet, Over the Edge was a game of occult mysteries set on the island of Al Amarja. The original game was ahead of its time, as seen in part from the divisive reaction to its mechanics. The new edition refines and revises both the mechanics and the setting, and claims to draw inspiration from the work of numerous influential designers who have come into their own since Over the Edge was first published. If you’ve never played Over the Edge before, now is a great opportunity: Al Amarja is a unique interpretation of a kitchen sink setting, where all manner of conspiracies, occult influences, and supernatural horrors all converge on this one island. Couple this broad setting palette with light mechanics, and it should be easy to jump into conspiracy roleplaying. RPG veterans Atlas Games are publishing this new edition, and $20 can get you a PDF.
Flotsam is a game about a group of misfits and renegades living in the belly of a space station, ignored or overlooked by other members of society. Diceless and GMless, Flotsam looks at characters and situations to move the action forward, and instigate conversations that lead to resolution. Designed by Josh Fox, who also created Lovecraftesque, Flotsam takes mechanics and structures from games like Fiasco and The Quiet Year, but builds them out into a format better suited to campaign play. If you’ve recently been intrigued by other Kickstarters like Archives of the Sky or Dream Askew, Flotsam may be another solid choice. 9 pounds ($12) gets you a PDF copy.
Tiny Supers is a Super iteration of the light and flexible TinyD6 system. The intent of the book, though, is to provide something more substantial than other TinyD6 games by including a whole-cloth setting, and tools to make it easy for GMs to run within that setting. In addition to the core GallantVerse setting, the book will also include “micro-verses”, which either work as high-level setting outlines, or alternate dimensions attached to the GallantVerse. From Gallant Knight Games, Tiny Supers represents a significant expansion over other TinyD6 games, and may lead to more worldbuilding in this system. $13 gets you a digital copy of the game.
Notably missing from this list is Power Outage, a promising game which Seamus already reviewed. No need for me to write another summary, but it’s worth checking out the review and the Kickstarter campaign. There are many other high quality campaigns out there, though most of them sat in more well-tread genres like traditional fantasy. Still, the high volume of products coming out at this time is a good portent that there will be a number of new and interesting products at GenCon.
See a Kickstarter I didn’t cover which deserves some love? Let us know in the comments!