When I stopped updating our first spotlight for Itch.io’s Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality it had slightly more than 1,000 video and tabletop games and had raised about $3 million to be split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund. As I write this, less than a week later, the Bundle consists of 1704 items and has raised more than $7 million. That is, frankly, a staggering effort that shows what a community – one that often exists on the edges of its respective industries and has a larger percentage of marginalized creators – can do when rallied to a good cause. Millionaires and corporations have sacrificed and given less, and we’d be wise to keep that in mind.
Still, the actual contents of the Bundle is still staggering by itself, and after picking Chalice, For the Honor, and Dragonhearts out of the haystack Maria was good enough to point me towards two more that will be worth your time to check out – whether they’re currently sitting on your dragon’s-hoard-sized bundle of charity or you need one last incentive to pitch in as the Bundle winds down.
These are times of trouble: the days are numbered. Legends told us about them. We have names for them in our sacred scriptures: the Ragnarök, the War of Gods, the Apocalypse, the Arrival of Avatars, the Eternal Night, the Infinite Void.
The end of days.
But we are not alone, we are not powerless: the gods are walking among us. They are here to guide us, to save the world as we know it – or to help us reach the land of the Dead.
If we pray faithfully enough and prove our worthiness, perhaps we can be spared.
Created by Khelren, Godsend is actually a standalone setting/game for another product that CHG has looked at: Legacy: Life Among the Ruins. Rather than being a post-apocalyptic legacy-style game following characters through generations, however, Godsend is a pre-apocalyptic game of epic mythology barreling towards the end times.
Two things struck me the most about Godsend. First, each player is playing a Divinity, a god, who is going to have an agenda of their own and may by the doom or the salvation of the world. While their Divinity persists, however, over the course of the game they’ll also be playing several Avatars who are chosen by the gods as their empowered but mortal servants. The tricky bit? You play as an Avatar of another player’s Divinity, which I find to be a great way to capture one of the themes of the game: the Avatars and the Divinities aren’t always going to be getting along.
Second, although the bones of the game are similar to Legacy/Powered by the Apocalypse, Godsend is a completely diceless game. I saw something similar with some of the moves back in Bluebeard’s Bride, and it makes even more sense here: why would you be beholden to the fickle dice gods when you are the gods (and their chosen Avatars)? It’ s not seeing if you succeed that’s really important in Godsend, it’s seeing what you choose to do, so tossing the dice out was a good choice here.
So, what’s it going to be: are you the world’s salvation, or it’s ruin?
The Lindworm is a shapeshifter, or so the stories go; a creature that flays the skin of humans and hides within. As counselors of this summer camp, you’ve each been traumatized by the Lindworm, in your own ways.
You remember little of that time
Just that you don’t want anyone else to experience it either, and you’ll keep this camp safe no matter what.
Created by the already-well-liked-by-CHG Jay Dragon, Sleepaway uses the Belonging Outside Belonging system and “gives us long hazy days, chilled summer nights, kids screaming and chasing fireflies, crackling campfires, and a gaunt, cruel monstrosity forever hiding just out of sight, always asking, “What do you do next?””
Designed for either one-shot play or a short campaign of 3 or so sessions, Sleepaway is . . . I’m reminded of Supergiant’s Bastion, or Masks, a game that is exceedingly well built to accomplish exactly what it wants to – which in this case is build an emotional story that involves being terrified at summer camp.
I spent quite a few summers at one summer camp or another myself, walking alone back to my tent past midnight after goofing off with some friends when and where we really shouldn’t have been, with every dark site and silent dirt road seeming more than a little sinister, with the one floodlight lighting up the crossroads near the trading post somehow seeming like something to avoid . . . and if you’d told me then that a monster called the lindworm was lurking between the trees, I’d have been hard-pressed to not believe you. Still would be, really, and Sleepaway nails that.
Characters have a range of moves – some strong, some normal, some weak – and you’ll be trying all of them, not just because of the story but because you have to. In order to use strong moves, among which is to directly oppose what the lindworm is doing, you need Tokens – which you can only get by using weak moves, among which is the lindworm getting to act. PCs – Counselors – might very well perish as the game becomes even darker and the lindworm stops playing with its food, but stranger Counselors might emerge from the wilds (and even time) to take up their task of keeping the Campers safe. The lindworm’s actions are governed by a deck of cards and controlled by one of the players, and as the game moves through its acts the actions become more sinister – and more fatal.
As horror games go, though, it works hard to keep things safe. Besides talking about safety tools, there’s a rule that Counselors are not complicit in the suffering of the Campers under their care; they might fail in the end, but each Counselor genuinely wishes to care for their charges, so roleplaying an ‘evil’ Counselor is right out. There’s also an iron-clad rule, hammered home throughout the book: while a player may be using cards to decide what the lindworm does, nobody roleplays the lindworm. Ever.
Try not to get flayed alive, but if you do, I hope you manage to protect the Campers – if you manage that, then even dead, you win.
We’ll be unpacking the Bundle for a long time to come, I think, but for now we’ve picked out a total of six that should keep you busy while we keep cataloging. There’s about twelve hours left in the Bundle as of this post, so go get some awesome games for a good cause.
And remember, the work doesn’t end when the Bundle does.