August is GenCon season, but it’s still bumping on Kickstarter! This month we’ve also seen the tagline “Break Kickstarter” pop up, which has produced some intriguing campaigns. Needless to say, there’s plenty to sift through. Don’t worry though, because sift I did, and I’ve come up with my top nine for the month! Check out some hacks, some new games, and some truly odd design projects.
Fiasco is one of the best, most accessible, and also frankly funniest one-shot RPGs out there. The second edition of Fiasco takes the structure and rules which work so well and turns them into a card-based format, which has the potential to reduce the barrier to entry even further than the first edition. If you enjoy Fiasco you should be looking into this. Even if you are a Fiasco hacker, who gets the most out of the game by writing their own material, you should check this out; not only has Jason and the Bully Pulpit crew alluded to hacking materials for this edition coming later, but the second edition will almost certainly make it easier for you to teach more people the game. $10 gets you a pre-release digital version, but I need to be realistic and say that if you want this game you should back at $30 to get a boxed set. Personally? I backed at $75 to get all three expansion packs, but that is just how I feel about Fiasco.
Worlds Without Harmony is also a GMless game, though with a very different bent from Fiasco. Worlds without Harmony is a hack of Swords Without Master, a sword and sorcery game by Epidiah Ravachol, best known as the designer of Dread. Where Worlds Without Harmony diverges most strongly is theme, and the characters in the game are intended to grapple with an irreconcilable ideological conflict. While designer Max Hervieux lists Swords Without Master as well as Dream Askew/Dream Apart as influences, there is also a thematic streak here which runs parallel to games designed by Ben Robbins, like Microscope and Kingdom. I think Worlds Without Harmony looks intriguing, and $10 is a solid entry point for a PDF of this game.
Paws and Claws is the latest step in the designer’s journey to create an RPG inspired by the Redwall series of novels, which started with an actual play podcast using Fate Core. The new system arose in part because the aspects of Redwall which were deemed central to the play experience weren’t available in Fate, at least not easily. The new system puts these mechanics in place, as well as a more structured race-and-class styled character system to reflect the species-centric character archetypes of Redwall. The new game has a quickstart already available, always a plus when it comes to attracting Kickstarter backers. $20 gets you a PDF, but you can get access to the test documents at the $10 tier.
Hope is a post-apocalyptic game with base-building elements. This is a subgenre getting increasingly crowded, from Mutant: Year Zero on the traditional side to Dream Askew on the indie side. Hope seems to aim into the OSR/sandbox realm, using a relatively simple mechanical system and content generation mechanics for the GM. While there is some descriptive text that makes me think that the designer maybe wasn’t comprehensive about their game research, the system is original enough (and thought out well enough) that I don’t think it falls into the typical heartbreaker traps. If you’re particularly interested in the post-apocalyptic base-building genre, this is likely a solid back. $5 gets you a PDF, a low price for a complete game.
Inspire is a GM-less game about spirits trying to become gods. Each player’s character is the spirit of something specific, and in turn has an element they align with. Each of the four elements corresponds to a suit in a deck of cards, which drives the resolution mechanics. Like Worlds Without Harmony above, the game mostly focuses on giving a framework to investigate otherworldly characters and their ideological characters, though Inspire is grounded somewhat more in a traditional mythological view of spirits and gods. C$10 (~$8) gets you a PDF copy.
You may have noticed a few projects labeled ‘Break Kickstarter’, which are about extending beyond the typical structure of Kickstarter projects. Some of them are dumb (a game I can only play after the designer is dead is a played out riff on Dadaism), but some of them are pretty intriguing. Like Brain Trust. Brain Trust is a game design process where, by backing the project on Kickstarter, you get to vote on design choices for the final game. As the campaign’s already started some of the choices are already locked in, which makes this all the more intriguing. The game is accompanied by a design podcast, but I personally would back this for the chance to vote more than anything else. $10 gets you a finished copy of whatever the game ends up being, as well as access to the design archives.
Black, Red, White is another ‘Break Kickstarter’ project, though one that illustrates more the change in norms than a direct violation of them. Black, Red, and White are all unfinished game concepts, which the designer will bring to fruition given successful funding of this Kickstarter. This is far before the level of minimum viable product normally considered acceptable on Kickstarter, though earlier on in RPG Kickstarter history there were many more projects like this. Why is this one any different than those early ones? Mostly because the designer is Nathan Paoletta, eminent game designer best known for ‘World Wide Wrestling’ as well as the ‘Design Games’ podcast with Will Hindmarch, and many other projects. Nathan’s resume for the sorts of games he describes in the campaign is impressive, and he is on the short list of designers I’d be OK with using Kickstarter for their own personal motivation/kick in the ass. $12 gets you a PDF of one of three games, $21 gets you a physical copy of one, and larger orders are available at progressively larger pledge levels.
Magical Kitties Save the Day is an all ages RPG based on a fairly simple dice pool system. The character drives are also simple, though still strong for driving play: each kitty has a human, and each human has a problem. In addition to these problems, the kitties’ hometown is also filled with troubles, which can further drive play over multiple sessions. Magical Kitties Save the Day appears to balance a solid premise and driving conflicts with relative simplicity, and the designers state the game is appropriate for children as young as six, though an adult or older child GM is still recommended. $15 gets you the PDF, though the package as designed has some nice physical elements that make the $25 physical tier worth it.
Mecha games are popular, and a few recent ones like Lancer have made a solid splash in the hobby. The Titans’ Trail takes the mecha vs. kaiju genre in an interesting direction, putting it in a Victorian setting. Titans’ Trail appears to be fairly traditional, but both the character and the ‘Titan’ get detailed out with their own character creation and backstory. The setting looks interesting enough, but the implied backstory around Titans and their pilots bonding can make for some great hooks, which heightens the appeal for me personally. The Titans’ Trail seems to me like what Escaflowne could look like as an RPG, and it’s worth it to see if the designer delivers on the potential. $10 gets you a PDF.
While GenCon had some of the biggest releases and announcements this month, Kickstarter was still kicking. These games are all worth checking out, and I’ve even put my money where my mouth is for the second edition of Fiasco. Other games you think I should be aware of? Let us know in the comments! Otherwise, click some links and come back next month for another Kickstarter Wonk!