Kickstarter Wonk: April, 2021

Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! Oh it’s an exciting month, this month. Maybe it’s because of holdouts from ZineQuest, or maybe it’s because there’s a vaccine, but there’s actually a full, healthy crop of Kickstarter campaigns out there! We couldn’t even stop at 10; if you haven’t already, check out Seamus’s review of Tyler Crumrine’s Possible Worlds Kickstarter. And after you’re done with that, scroll through these 10 handpicked campaigns. The world is healing!

Ageless Chronicles

Ageless Chronicles looks really interesting. Not quite video game, not quite RPG, Ageless Chronicles is built around using software to procedurally generate map hexes as your RPG party explores them. This is backed up by a relatively simple, arguably OSR-adjacent ruleset which for the most part seems to keep the computer out of actually adjudicating combat (that is to say, the software will crunch numbers but the NPCs are still squarely in the control of the GM). All in all this seems to be the right balance for making a digitally-aided RPG, though I’d personally want to see more examples of how deep the generated material goes. There are two issues here: first, claiming the procedural generation system is “vastly superior” to random tables negates what should be the obvious fact that no GM ever rolls on a random table and actually lets it sit if it doesn’t mesh with the game. Second, the revenue model here is a subscription model, which I am deeply suspicious of. Still, even with those quirks, this looks like a solid attempt at adding some digital horsepower to the GM’s toolkit. Be warned if you don’t read the tiers closely enough, though: you need to back at $50 to actually get the game.

Blue Planet: Recontact

Recontact is the third edition of Blue Planet, and a lot has changed since the second edition was originally released in 2000. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of room for optimistic sci-fi at the table, and at least in my mind Blue Planet will fill that niche nicely. Taking place on a waterworld called Poseidon, Blue Planet focuses on the new sociopolitical environment of this planet and, much like Eclipse Phase, aims to provide GMs with campaign archetypes to help structure their exploration of the setting. An interesting note is that, despite extensive revisions to the text and mechanics, this edition of Blue Planet does not seek to advance the timeline from 1e or 2e. Given how long it’s been since a new edition came out, and given how advancing the timeline works in other games (looking at you Shadowrun) I can’t help but think this is a roundly positive decision. $32 gets you the two-book set in PDF, but you can opt to get one book or the other separately for $18 each. Given this two-book set is apparently going to be a 600 page doorstop, I think this is completely reasonable for what you get. And if you need convincing as to the value proposition, know you’ll get Blue Planet 2e PDFs as a thank you as soon as the campaign ends.

Death In Space

Mork Borg in space? Not exactly. Death In Space lists a number of games from the OSR movement as inspirations, like Mork Borg, Knave, and Into the Odd. Unsurprisingly, space horror breakout Mothership is also a clear influence the designers cite. Death In Space takes these influences and casts them against a Traveller-esque ‘crew and a ship’ conceit to produce another style-forward OSR riff, complete with its own soundtrack much like Mork Borg. Light and quick, but not necessarily concerned with emulating old-school D&D particular, Death In Space is yet another indication that the old-school universe is expanding. SEK100 (~$12) gets you a PDF.

First They Came

First They Came is heavy in multiple ways. First, the game casts you as a character persecuted for their beliefs in 1942 Berlin, just to bring the implied Niemoller quote that is the title out in the open immediately. Second, and in my mind more intriguingly, the game is intended to be played in the dark or blindfolded. This game is driven by audio tracks that structure its one-shot sessions, and aims to be “a hybrid game between chamber larp and tabletop RPG”. While First They Came is clearly narrow, its pushes on the medium through centering audio are worth celebrating. I can’t imagine this would be anything other than a difficult game to play, but I think it’s still worth a look. €10 (~$12) gets you a PDF plus audio in MP3.

Fly Softly

The latest from Kira Magrann, designer of Something Is Wrong Here, Fly Softly takes themes of environmental stewardship and community-building and casts them into a neat and weird science fiction setting. The characters here are hybridized monarch butterfly people, making their annual migration from the Appalachians down to Mexico. This game definitely has splashes (see what I did there) of Magrann’s earlier setting work for The Veil: Cascade, Swim Baby Swim, which cast the players as mermaid-like hybrids who hung out in reclaimed underwater tunnels. The strong ‘other-ness’ in characters pulls a lot of weight both in the earlier setting and here, and in Fly Softly it’s made more striking by the reality of dwindling monarch butterfly populations. $20 gets you a PDF.

Goblin Country

Goblin Country is probably the first attempt I’ve seen at a Dungeon Fantasy Belonging Outside Belonging game. The characters are goblins, and the game is driven by the conflicts that affect the characters and their clan, including things like humans and adventurers. Goblin Country was originally uploaded on itch early in 2020, but this revised version is both expanded and has also pivoted away from the heavier elements which likely squared the game deeper into the territory of other BoB games like Dream Askew. It sounds like this version leans more into what made the original fun, and with that much testing already on the books it’s that much easier to recommend. £10 (~$14) gets you a PDF.

Pandora: Total Destruction

Pandora: Total Destruction is a supers game with a twist. The setting is one where supers are common, and they seem to be getting more powerful and more destructive. The attempt to control this is the global Pandora Initiative, which seeks to identify children with superpowers and train them at one of the secretive Pandora Academies. The characters are these children, going through training and attempting to harness their chaotic innate abilities. Through the course of the game a great evil is revealed that the characters need to stop, resulting in what looks a bit like a cross between X-Men and Harry Potter. This is a unique spin on RPG Supers, and I’m glad to see there’s still interest in making traditional supers games. C$13 (~$12 US) gets you a PDF.

Rad Zone

Rad Zone is a solo RPG about surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. While it has a structure similar to that of journaling RPGs, there’s a bit more mechanical weight put behind the whole thing. The game is run in episodes, which start with you choosing your equipment and then running a journey, based off of one of several journey charts. The game also includes several isometric building maps and NPC character sheets for the characters you meet and recruit along the way. Rad Zone sounds like an interesting approach to solo play; unsurprisingly the limited charts, maps, and NPCs are already being expanded in stretch goals and add-ons. If successful, Rad Zone could easily evolve into a neat RPG ecosystem with low logistical and financial barriers to entry. Speaking of low barriers to entry, £5 (~$7) gets you a PDF.

Solemn Vale

Described as a narrative storytelling game, Solemn Vale doesn’t have much in the way of rules described in this campaign. That doesn’t prevent it from being utterly intriguing. Solemn Vale is folk horror, a genre of rural strangeness and things best left alone that, in its subtlety, is one of my preferred subgenres of horror. Focusing on the village of Solemn Vale, the game casts the players as outsiders to the town, where they will slowly discover the awful truth. Combining this fictional setting with some grim realities of 1970s England, and you get some great opportunities to mix the real and the unreal. Intrigued but unconvinced? Check out the six episode actual play linked within the campaign. $20 gets you a PDF.

We Die Young

We Die Young is a game of supernatural characters and…grunge. Taking place in the 90s, characters in We Die Young mix classes from the grunge aesthetic with supernatural creature types to make what sounds like, at least slightly, an OSR ‘all grown up’ version of Monsterhearts. In addition to being broadly old-school mechanically, We Die Young is built on the Survive This! Ruleset, which has had several games released for it over the years…we covered Survive This: Vigilante City when it went on Kickstarter in July of 2018. If you’re looking for more modern setting takes on OSR, or want d20s to go with your vampires and werewolves, We Die Young is an interesting option. The PDF in this campaign is being offered, as a pandemic relief benefit, for $1. If you can afford it, though, the Print/PDF bundle is still only $24.

It’s good to see designers out in force again; my hope is that we see even more games being crowdfunded as the year goes on. Any thoughts? Something I missed? Let us know below! Either way, we’ll see you for next month’s Kickstarter Wonk!

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