Kickstarter Wonk: August, 2021

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for August! Now, you might be looking down the headings and notice we only have seven games and an honorable mention. Well, that’s because, whether you know it or not, you got way more Kickstarter content this month than usual! Check out my preview of Dreampunk, which is still live for another ten days…really neat game using imagery cards to drive play through a dream world. Then you can read Seamus’s quickstart review of Avatar Legends, the new game from Magpie Games! That brings us up to nine, but you can count Avatar Legends twice if you also read the Meet the Party Seamus put together. Beyond those, though, all eight below are all worth checking out, and should help you ease the pain of missing this year’s superspreader event GenCon. 

A|State Second Edition

All the dystopian games from my adolescence are getting remade. First came a new edition of SLA Industries, which brought the wit from the first edition, along with most of the mechanics. Now, A|State? A|State originally came out in 2004, right around the time I was finally running my own campaigns in high school and hungry for more of what was out there. Now, the dystopian city game is being rebooted using Forged in the Dark, showing that this dystopian city is ready to be thrust screaming into the future. While I’m already a fan, A|State wasn’t exactly a top 5 seller even in its day, so you might need an introduction. Fortunately, a pretty hefty (132 pages) intro PDF is available straight from the campaign. £15 (~$21) gets you the full PDF of this one.


Banality is an interesting micro-RPG experiment. The core of the game is loosely Cyberpunk, set at the beginning of an AI uprising, and the rules use the surroundings of the players to make the ingame setting more immersive. What makes Banality quite different, though, is the delivery. Banality is more a series of micro-RPGs, each one representing a key element in the story of the uprising. The campaign covers the first five modules, and how many are delivered depends on how well the campaign funds. As of this writing only the first module has been unlocked, and getting to the second will require roughly tripling the current funding. I’d like to see this do well, but at halfway through the campaign I think the incrementalism strategy will backfire. Of course, they also shot themselves in the foot with the pricing…A$8, or $6 US, is too cheap for even a trifold RPG, and they don’t have any special tiers either. Still, let’s see if we can get some eyeballs on this…I think Banality could be really cool if all five modules get made.

Carbon Grey

So I was a fan of the old Microsoft game Crimson Skies. Early 20th century airplanes, giant zeppelins, it was a blast. It was also one of the most successful iterations of dieselpunk, the aesthetic mixing the early 20th century and early triumphs of the internal combustion engine with weird science and glamorization of the interregnum of the world wars. Now we have Carbon Grey, a game which looks to glamorize things once past in both setting and mechanics. Carbon Grey takes place in a reimagined World War 1 (the ‘Great War’) and adds those dieselpunk standbys, mechas, and zeppelins. The mechanics, though, are interesting; Carbon Grey is purporting to resurrect the d6 System from West End Games. It’s an interesting claim, considering FFG is still selling the 30th Anniversary Edition of WEG Star Wars, but it will be the first new material using WEG d6 in quite some time. The system definitely has its fans, but I’m sure many are curious to see how Carbon Grey will modernize the vintage ruleset. It’s also worth noting that Carbon Grey was first a graphic novel, but while the designers do pander to the fans a little it doesn’t seem to be a requirement to have read the series to enjoy the game (I personally had never heard of it). $30 gets you a PDF, but there is a lower cost tier if you’re interested in getting a digital omnibus of the original comic.

The Devil Made Us Do It

From the warped mind of Monte Cook, creator of Numenera, Stealing Stories for the Devil is a zero-prep heist game. The characters are liars…so good at lying that they can alter the very fabric of reality by doing so. Of course, your characters aren’t the only Liars, and it seems like some of the others might be ending the universe. Time to get to work.

So wait. The game is called Stealing Stories for the Devil, but the campaign is called The Devil Made Us Do It. Well, that’s because, thanks to the magic of stretch goals, there are two additional games potentially in the mix: Who The Devil Are You and The Devil’s Dandy Dogs. I’m not entirely sure how the games are related, but they’re building off the same fictional beats and zero-prep mechanics and that is certainly intriguing. Monte Cook has been around the scene a while, but this may be his biggest departure from his Cypher System comfort zone since Numenera was new, and that’s a cool thing to look into. Here’s the rub, though: $15 gets you a PDF of the core rules, none of the setting material. The full Stealing Stories PDF is at the $35 tier. And to get all of the stretch goals? $110. Don’t say the man didn’t learn anything from Invisible Sun.

Dueling Fops of Vindamere

Monte Cook out there with a new game? How about Greg Stolze? In a short campaign, the Reign designer is aiming to produce a zeo-prep, GMless game about “sneering, fencing, seduction, and other risky behaviors”. This seems to aim to be a regency game, with each character a fencing instructor with two beloveds. It seems to be aiming for some degree of mechanical complexity similar to Greg’s earlier work with One-Roll Engine games, though not exactly using those mechanics. That all said, I’m utterly fixated on descriptions such as ‘like Bridgerton but extremely violent’ and ‘extra-horny Cobra Kai with swords’. This is one of the shortest campaigns I’ve read, but with words like those above, I still want the game. $10 gets you a PDF.

Fate of Dungeons

They’re turning everything into a dungeon crawl these days! More seriously, Fate of Dungeons looks to take the old-school approach and emphasize the exploration aspects so many of us romanticize about early D&D (whether or not they were indeed there). The combination in this hack appears to be the player-facing options and collaborative worldbuilding of Fate with the options of D&D. Fate of Dungeons builds out classes and backgrounds, but then pairs that with a large library of stunts to help you make the exact character you’ve dreamed of. Call me weird, but this is what I want to see out of old-school gaming: Take the thrill of the blank page that your early gaming experiences got you, and pair it with rules that can make the most of it. $25 gets you a PDF, but as the only tier it also comes with an at-cost code for a print copy. Pretty sweet if you ask me.

Fedora Noir

A GM-less noir game where one player is the detective…and another one is the detective’s hat. If that premise doesn’t draw you in, you don’t know what fun is. The game is for four people, and beyond the two character’s mentioned, the detective’s partner and their flame are the roles occupied by the other players. While each contributes to the story in their own way, it’s the hat that gets to provide that classic noir voiceover. With a genre as utterly trope-ful as noir, a game with this degree of structure makes perfect sense, and sounds like it could be a lot of fun. The game uses a regimented act structure in a way that makes me think about Fiasco, but in a lot of ways that similarity makes sense. There are relatively few detective games out there, so thinking about it a different way like Fedora Noir could scratch that itch nicely. $12 gets you a PDF.

Honorable Mention: Ex Libris

Ex Libris is not a game, per se, which is why it gets an honorable mention. Instead, Ex Libris is a content management system meant to help gamers keep track of all the different monsters, adventures, and stuff that has been created for a game, whether first-party or third-party, licensed or fan, free or for pay. Ex Libris also already exists, with its first instance powering a library of Mork Borg content endorsed by the original designers. Ex Libris is running what one could call a traditional or old-school Kickstarter campaign: You don’t need to back the project to take advantage of Ex Libris should the project fund, but increasing tiers of pledges get thank-you gifts, starting with a Mork Borg adventure at $25 and going up to multi-hundred dollar tiers with gaming sessions from well-known designers and even a hand-bound book. Even if you’re not interested in the high-tier rewards, Ex Libris is a worthy project for anyone who likes games with expansive fan material, from Mork Borg to Troika to Mothership.

Some really neat games out there this month, and even if this list looks short, you have to remember that the level of excitement was such that we wrote three articles about live Kickstarters before they could even get wonked. Hopefully you look beyond the behemoths like Free League and Magpie (yes, Magpie is a behemoth when you look at their Kickstarter record) and check out some smaller projects that could use the money. Banality could sing, but only if they get a few more modules done. And Fate of Dungeons is only halfway to funding and only has a few days left! Check out these games, make some good choices with your wallet. Then, get ready to do it all over again when I’m back here with the September edition of Kickstarter Wonk!

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