Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! As we enter into July, the world shows no sign of getting less interesting…and I mean that in the proverbial curse sort of way. Still, though, there are Kickstarters being launched and games being funded! Like before, we’ll take a look at a reduced list of Kickstarter campaigns, and hopefully add some valuable flavor to the discussion. Remember that with everything going in the world, often creators need the support to continue creating, so if you have the means, look for ways to help the creators that enrich your life, whether it’s through Kickstarter, itch.io, DriveThruRPG, Patreon, or one of the other platforms out there.
Fairies of the Mistglade is another entry in the corpus of family or children-oriented RPGs, but what makes this one stick out to me is adaptability for children as young as three years of age. While somewhat based on D&D, Fairies of the Mistglade is designed to give young children stepping stones into RPGs, and is introducing mechanics and concepts piecemeal until the last tier, intended for children ages eight and up. I’m personally unsure how kids will react to the “puzzle” mechanics (non-diegetic puzzles like word searches and connect-the-dots), but I’m not a kid now and I wasn’t a particularly normal kid at age 5, so I’ll reserve judgment. All in all, though, this looks like a solid push at bringing RPGs to the under-10 set and under-6 set specifically. $25 gets you PDFs for both the game book and all the activity sheets.
Storybox is a collection of mini-RPGs, each a deconstruction of a fantasy trope. While Vincent Baker’s Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands has become the most well-known example of mini-game driven RPGs, Storybox offers a different experience by offering eight games which are disconnected yet at the same time thematically linked. Being interested in long-form narrative means that I’m intrigued by A Beginning and An Ending, and beyond that both Goblins? and Chromatix sound fascinating and fun. The campaign describes these games and four others, and I’m sure that even if you don’t think this is up your alley you’ll be struck by the creativity here. £10 (about $13) gets you a PDF.
Runt is described as a “material-free” RPG that requires nothing but the rules and maybe some paper to play. Although neither the game nor the Kickstarter campaign is all that long, there are a couple things that intrigue me. While a light, genre-agnostic RPG is not new (Risus come to mind), I want to know more about Runt’s “Challenge” mechanics, which specify how to resolve conflicts “quickly and flavorfully”. A pocket diceless game could be invaluable for low-prep GMs and creative spitballers alike, especially with something structured enough to be called a “mechanic” while not needing a randomizer. I have to give credit when it comes to this campaign…they’ve made me want to know more, and that’s a sign of good marketing to say the absolute least. A mere C$5 ($4 US) gets you a PDF.
I’ve discussed and pondered the idea of games that focus around robust wilderness survival and navigation mechanics before, but usually in the context of fantasy RPGs, where such things are either considered cruft or can’t be the center of attention. Enter The Hike That Binds Us, a game in a tradition even older than D&D, dating back to Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival from 1972. The Hike That Binds Us is meant to emulate the feel of a long-distance hike, and includes a map with hundreds of kilometers of trails in a fictional Canadian wilderness. Each character’s profession and backpack helps the group along in a journey where completion but also survival are in question. I appreciate this game’s narrow focus, and think that if done well this could be a great tabletop counterpart to digital games like Firewatch and The Long Dark. C$5 ($4 US) gets you a PDF…but this is no 8 page game like Runt. Check out the physical tiers. The Hike that Binds Us ends the Friday after we go live (July 3rd) so act now if you want to get in on this.
Nerdbirds is a game that tries to balance dark and absurd, but as you could probably guess from the title leans into absurd first. The game’s conceit is built upon “running into strange creatures and situations” and while there is space opera flair it does seem like the setting is equally at home being goofy as it is leaning into “seeking out new life and new civilizations”. I’m curious how they square “gritty dystopia” with, well, Nerdbirds, but knowing how well gritty games can produce comedy (unintentional or not) I’m not going to discount it. $15 gets you a PDF, but if you’re interested there are limited slots for custom character art at pledges as low as $30.
Slowly but surely, I’m seeing a bit more life breathed into the crowdfunding arena, though still nothing like what we had before COVID. As I noted in my review of Game On: Tabletop last month, Kickstarter serves a very US-centric audience, but that means it’s impacted by the US-centric failure of the population to take the proper precautions against a dangerous disease. While pointing fingers and blaming is rarely a productive activity, you can go ahead and point fingers at and blame the people who refuse to wear masks and insist on going out to restaurants and bars at this point in time, endangering the people serving them who often have no economic choice. Here in the US, we’re held hostage by selfishness, and that is affecting every part of our economy…even indie game designers.
Hopefully all my readers are making the right decisions which reduce risks to themselves and others around them. I know it’s been a long three months, but unless we keep both ourselves and everyone around us in mind with the decisions we make, it’s going to be a hell of a lot longer. In the interim, support the designers of these games, and others you may find. The creative industries are criminally undersupported, and the five or fifteen dollars it takes to get a PDF of one of these games will bring you an outsized amount of entertainment for the price. I’m sorry I don’t have much more to say, but hang in there. Whenever there’s people trying to attract funding for their unique RPG projects, I’ll be writing about it monthly in Kickstarter Wonk!
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