Welcome to June! 2021 is heating up, at least if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, but in the RPG space it’s heating up all over! I had way more than 10 games to read this month, and several I had to check out less than 24 hours before this went live! Designers are wild out here! These ten games represent a potent intersection of design, marketing, and yes, hype, on Kickstarter, and there’s no better way to start your hot nerd summer than by checking them out.
The basic story beats of ARC are seen all over the TTRPG world (or even fantasy at large): you must defeat the oncoming apocalypse. Of course, execution is where things get interesting, and where ARC shines. ARC is intended to be a relatively light game, taking inspiration from the OSR and the current crop of narrative games in equal measure, like many of my recent favorites. Where ARC gets interesting is the Doomsday Clock, a very literal time limit on the apocalypse. When your minutes are ticking down, how does your character change? That’s what ARC intends to find out, and I’m here for it. $20 gets you a PDF, though there is a $10 tier for those experiencing financial hardship.
Fiasco meets Are You Afraid of the Dark? How has no one made this before? From the warped minds of Will Jobst and Adam Vass come a new collaborative storytelling game intended to be played over one two hour session with no prep. Similar to Fiasco, Campfire is supposed to combine the storytelling of the players with prompts and mechanics to make the end result unique and collaborative. Also similar to Fiasco, Campfire has playsets, here called Sparks, which let groups twist and form the seeds of eight different horror stories into tales of their own design. Campfire takes round-robin storytelling games to a different place than most have seen, and I like it. $20 gets you a PDF.
You are a Roller. The dice have been your life, whether kind or not, and they guide you as you make your way through the Realm. It will take 1500 gold to cross the river into the afterlife…do you have it? Collector is light, competitive, and meta enough to get my attention. While not intending to be immersive or serious, Collector still seems to observe the principles of the OSR well enough to lend itself either to roleplay or to the dice. It’s also worth noting that Ideal Hands, the group behind Collector, is a Hong Kong-based design group, and this change in perspective shines through in the way Collector is framed. Looking for more chances to roll dice? Here you go. HK$45 (~$6) gets you a PDF.
…Exalted Anarchy? I mean, maybe. Exalted: Essence purports to be a streamlined version of Exalted Third Edition intended to be more user-friendly than the original. More interesting (and less of a low bar) is that this version will include all ten types of Exalted, something OG 3e would pull off maybe by the time I retire at the rate they’re currently going. I’m still a bit stuck on “streamlined version of Third Edition” as, from a strictly design perspective, that’s not what you’d actually want to do to make this game user-friendly. Nonetheless, this is something Exalted fans have been asking for since they had to read Third Edition, so we can always hold out hope. $25 gets you a PDF, which, even before the inevitable Onyx Path delay tax, is already scheduled for March 2023. Phew.
From the mad mind of Caleb Stokes, designer of Red Markets, comes something…really, really different. Fae’s Anatomy is a game of fantastical medical melodrama, one you may have seen coming if you’ve listened to Role-Playing Public Radio. Fae’s Anatomy puts one player into the role of the patient and the rest into the role of Providers, filling out Witch Doctor House’s staff, as it were. While the game is an RPG all the way down, the core is a logic puzzle developed from trying to narrow down what condition is implied by the patient’s symptoms. There are 10,000 possible conditions in the game, and in a world where the mystical is just another kind of science, running the right tests will be a unique challenge. Fae’s Anatomy looks to be an equally intriguing, yet completely different, game than what Caleb has done in the past (zombie economics, drunk ducks). $10 gets you a PDF.
Into the Mother Lands looks to be a weird and wonderful science-fantasy setting, using Afrofuturism as the platform from which to interrogate pretty much every space opera trope you can think of. Based on the planet of Vutoa, Into the Mother Lands presents a setting which mixes existing tropes with a lot of really wild and new ideas to provide a different perspective to the typical ‘human colonist’ scenario upon which many similar games are based. The campaign doesn’t go deep into mechanics, but honestly for a trad sci-fi RPG that’s never as necessary as people think. If plant-human hybrids, magnetically levitated cities, and thought broadcasting tech sound intriguing, well, you know where to click. $25 gets you a PDF.
There’s two things about My Body Is A Cage. First, the game concept. During the day it’s a slice of life game, where you work, study, socialize, or all of the above. At night, though, in your dreams, it’s a dungeon crawler. As they say in the campaign, it’s “a game about two worlds…and the key to figuring out one is hidden within the other.” The other thing about My Body Is A Cage is the book spreads. This game looks to be 70+ pages of Mork Borg-grade “look at what we’re doing” and I am excited by that. And of course, like any game that someone like me compares to Mork Borg, there’s a soundtrack. Unique concept plus solid execution basically forces me to endorse it, and I very well may back it myself. $20 gets you a PDF, though there is a $10 tier for those experiencing financial hardship.
This is interesting. Necrobiotic is a dystopian setting where the dead have come back to life. Of course, they came back to life because we engineered it that way, and now walking corpses are a servile underclass for the living. Of course, once the birth rate plummets and the dead risk outnumbering the living…things get dicey. Necrobiotic pairs its premise with equally interesting mechanics: Each player draws a hand of cards, and gets to play either one or two cards for task resolution, depending on whether or not they’re trained in the skill. Advancement means modifying your deck, but no matter what happens, you can play cards knowing they may seal your fate later. There’s a lot of dials to turn with playing cards, so I’m interested to see how the rules for Necrobiotic work in detail. Fortunately, there’s a quickstart available. Once you’re ready to walk further into the land of the dead, $25 gets you a PDF.
I read this campaign expecting yet another Space Western RPG. I was wrong. Based on Mobile Frame Zero: Firebrands, Once More Into The Void is focused on an old captain getting his crew back together for one last job. This is not just a tropey premise, it’s the basis for all the mechanics of the game. Like other Firebrands hacks Once More Into The Void is based on mini-games, each building out one scene. In this case you start with the Recruitment Montage and build towards the eponymous mission, Once More Into The Void. Banking on the strength s of the Firebrands framework and reminding me of another tight narrative game, Facing The Titan, Once More Into The Void definitely looks to be worth checking out. $20 gets you a PDF, but there are multiple community copy tiers for those experiencing financial hardship.
Somninauts is the second game of this month about dreams, but is going more for the Inception-meets-Dali vibe than the inner life vibe (though there’s some of that too). As is somewhat inescapable in dream-based games, part of the mechanics of Somninauts involve probing your waking life for clues as to where to go in your dream world. Once there, though, the characters must face challenges and avoid gaining Recursion: too much Recursion and you wake up. Waking up before you solve the mystery? Find more clues, then go to sleep the next night. Somninauts takes a more OSR approach to the dream space, but I think it works, especially when you consider its potential application as a dream hack for virtually any other game. $20 gets you a PDF.
We are ready for summer here at Kickstarter Wonk, and the design community is too, what with the intense number of games out there this month. Think another game deserves a nod? Comment below, or reach out to us on Twitter. No matter what you do, grab some new games and come back next month for another Kickstarter Wonk!