Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for December! I don’t know what it is about timing at this time of year. Several great campaigns are ending today or ended yesterday, not really giving enough time for readers to grace them with their clicks. On the other hand, it seems like everyone is rushing to get a campaign wrapped before the holidays…and some of these campaigns needed to bake a little longer. No matter. I read a lot, but these seven I will stand behind as new games you should definitely check out. Onward!
GUMSHOE is known as a system for mysteries, where the mechanics are designed in part to prevent solving the mystery from being gummed up by bad rolls. It’s a neat system, but not the first one I would have considered for a pirate game. Nonetheless, Between the Devil & the Deep is a Caribbean Pirate game using GUMSHOE, and it takes GUMSHOE in a lot of directions I wouldn’t have expected. Putting the system head scratching away, we’re getting a game with sandbox play around the Caribbean, rules for creating your own pirate haven, and of course rules for ship-to-ship combat. That’s all pretty cool, and exactly what I’d want in a pirate game. And if GUMSHOE isn’t my chosen system, well, there’s another reason to check it out and see how they did it. $16 gets you a PDF, but that also includes an at-cost print copy.
We haven’t seen many RPGs set in the 80s because most of the RPGs we play were written in the 80s, if not even earlier. Still, Hell Night takes some interesting themes and ideas and boils them down to “spray paint this campaign on the side of a van”. Hell Night is mostly a setting and campaign, though the book does come with a system. Still, in the grand OSR tradition it’s intended to be fairly adaptable and portable. Described as a “doom biker RPG”, Hell Night centers around the three tentpoles of Black Humor, Ultra Violence, and Deep Lore, and from the campaign it appears that the game is Mork Borg meets Heavy Metal 2000. Of course, there is a playlist. $8 gets you a PDF of this one.
Magic school is a longstanding, popular trope, made even more so by a certain British book series. The aim of Lofi bards to study and relax to is to take this trope and cast it a bit more strongly against the sort of high school and university experiences which are played up in other media, and which some of us may have even had (as weird as it sounds, I was in a fraternity in college). While the dice mechanics are modeled on PbtA fairly directly, character creation is a bit more freeform, as neither students nor their arcane education fit neatly into the boxes playbooks make. One thing I have to highlight is the mechanical foci of the game: Study and Heart. I really appreciate these tentpoles, both learning magic and forming tight relationships, as a lot of magic school media (looking at you, lightning scar boy) falls back on the same monster fighting tropes we can find anywhere. £5 (~$7) gets you a PDF.
Magick Industrial Revolution. The Means of Magick seeks to make a fantasy allegory by placing players in a world where Magick is the most valuable resource, and it’s being extracted at alarming rates by megacorporations who take no heed to the damage being done to the environment around them. Add in some magical havoc and the FAI (pronounced Fey-I) and you have, well, a very different approach to the Shadowrun style of cyberpunk/fantasy fusion. While the allegory within is hardly subtle (the means of magick, think about it), the game still provides a compelling and different way to mix cyberpunk and fantasy, which I think is worth checking out. $20 gets you a PDF, but there is a lower tier for those experiencing financial hardship.
Red Giant takes dark fantasy and OSR traditions and gives them both an anime twist. When the sun goes red giant, cursed things begin to walk the earth, destroying everything in their path. Rather than create characters who can stand toe to toe against these threats, players will engage with sanity and survival systems, using mechanics which are reminiscent of…Ryuutama? Red Giant takes a fairly vast number of RPG influences and uses them to create a fairly portable system that, while drawing on OSR principles, isn’t truly OSR. Still, the hallmarks of a solid toolkit system are all there, so if the list of anime influences piques your interest, it’d probably be worth it. $15 gets you a PDF.
Things That Go Squeak In The Night mixes urban fantasy with the oddly popular fantasy rodent genre, placing players in the paws of a society of mice that must help save human children from the thrall of ghosts and spirits while keeping their own society secret. The setting is more The Rescuers than Redwall, and places you squarely in the human world, dealing with two different sets of challenges. The mechanics are interesting, using a dice pool system where you can use extra successes to buy perks. The perks, though, bring the results closer to something like PbtA. You know the options I’m talking about…you can deal grievous harm, or get away cleanly, or evade your opponent’s blows…it’s a neat adaptation of the PbtA mechanics into a different dice mechanic, and I’m curious to see how it works at the table. Gallant Knight Games is already well-known for their TinyD6 series, and I’m thinking that Squeak could be another ‘tiny’ success (in theme, of course!). $10 gets you a PDF.
Onyx Path is continuing their remake of the Trinity Continuum with Anima. For those of you expecting a direct follow-on to Aberrant, you may be a little surprised. I mean, it is a direct follow-on, in a manner of speaking, but it also is the first book in the Trinity Continuum to divert significantly from the first edition White Wolf released. Anima and Assassins were two Trinity settings which never came to fruition with White Wolf, so the success of the current Trinity Continuum has given them a new lease on life. Anima takes place in 2084 after the events of Aberrant and focuses on a new city, Cascade, and one of its biggest pastimes, the MMORPG Terra Surge. Anima aims to combine Cyberpunk and LitRPG, and in a way it slots nicely between Aberrant and Aeon while being kind of nothing like either. While still grounded in Storypath and OPP’s White Wolf roots, I’m happy to see their catalog expand into new directions. $25 gets you a PDF.
The last Kickstarter Wonk of 2021 is a bit abbreviated, but still full of some high quality stuff. This may not make your holiday shopping any easier, but at least it shows that game designers are still trying to make 2021 go out with a bang. Have a happy new year, and then I’ll see you soon after for the next Kickstarter Wonk!
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