Zine Month Round Up #2

Diving into a sea of dreams to pluck secrets from memories. Goblins going grocery shopping and making a mess of it. Horrible abominations made by scientists who say ‘who’s playing?’ when accused of playing god. A mirror-themed adventure that would have Link and Samus feeling right at home. Death metal Viking cats. Zine Month continues. and so does our coverage! Given the contents of this particular round up and a bit more time to ruminate on things, I’ve got some Thoughts about Zine Month itself and its relationship to Kickstarter… but we can talk about those later! You’re here for the zines, so let’s see what we’ve got!

Lucid: Sea of Dreams

Somewhere in the Sea of Dreams…

You struggle against the Mazzik in a battle of wills as the ravenous creature seeks to trap you within your own fears.

Damn emotion eaters!

You conjure up a playful melody to soothe your fears and keep the beast at bay.

One of your companions reaches out a tentacle and unleashes a torrent of jelly candies, banishing the creature back to wherever fear is from.

Time is ticking. You delve deeper into the dream until you find yourself on the verge of memories.

There is a house, and a man outside grilling meats. You chat with him, gleaning whatever you can of his location and motives, while your companions investigate the house.

“I think we found the address, and the kid” one of your companions announces, floating back to you.

Finally.

You wake up.

Groggily you grasp for your phone…

It’s time to make a few calls.

“A rules-light tabletop roleplaying game inspired by dreams, nightmares, Jewish folklore and much much more,” Lucid has provided a handy-dandy list of bullet points for what’s involved:

  • Tools for creating interesting and unique characters
  • Tables for generating encounters and compelling dreamscapes.
  • Over 8 unique locations within the Sea of Dreams to explore with plenty of plot hooks
  • A bevy of over a dozen interesting beings inspired by dreams, nightmares, Jewish folklore, and more.
  • Beautiful B/W art by Doan Trang

Along with some extra words from the creator, Raphael Falk:

“I wanted to create a game that could explore emotional and psychological themes for possible educational or therapeutic applications, I also wanted to create a game world that could pull from Jewish folklore but still be accessible to a wider audience. These two ideas merged into the current iteration of Lucid: Sea of Dreams.

Lucid is very good at pivoting from whimsy to nightmare, and allowing players ultimate flexibility in their creativity. I have loved to watch players rescue missing children, plot against formidable dreamer syndicates, parley with beings that understand the world alien to that of our own.”

In addition to being a standalone game, Lucid promises that a lot of its content could be treated as system agnostic, dropped into a game of your choice, getting you more value for your dollar. I find the premise very interesting (dreamscapes are cool, that’s just a fact), and it has to be said the art does a really good job of, ahem, illustrating what kind of game you’re getting into here.

You can check out the in-development ashcan version on itch.io, and there is some actual play to check out as well. On Kickstarter $10 will get you the digital version of the game (delivery of May ’22), $15 plus shipping will get you the physical version (September ’22), and there are several more retail and ‘get to name things in the game’ tiers for you to choose from.

Goblin Errands

“Goblins. The perennial underdogs. Short stature combined with an even shorter attention span. But always scrappy, clever. Adaptable survivors. Their tight-knit communities are tucked away in the forgotten and overlooked corners of cities built by and for tall people.

Your small party of goblins is tasked with a seemingly mundane errand to help out your community. Maybe you need to water the plants, shop for groceries or make an appointment with the local wizard to get your wise leader unstuck from his chamber pot. Sounds easy, right?

Well, unfortunately, you’ve got to contend with a world built for folk much bigger and stronger than you. And on top of that, you’ve got only one brain cell to share among the lot of you. Play to see how complications mount and these ordinary, everyday tasks spiral into hilarious (mis)adventures.”

There’s something about goblins. There’s a lot of fun to be had from being amusing rascals engaging in mischievous disasters. Goblin Errands promises to deliver a no-prep way to do so with four goblin playbooks – rowdy, rascal, whiz-wart, and crooner – and generators for both the goblin community and the errands they’ll be sent on.

Usually you can get Goblin Errands in PDF form for $10 on itch.io and DTRPG (although the itch version is shut down for the duration of ZiMo). To fund the game’s ZiMo print run the campaign will get you the PDF at a discounted €6/~$7, which is a pretty sweet deal, and the zine itself at €15/~$17 plus shipping. A generous €50/~$57 will get a special mention in the zine and produce five community copies.

Abominations

You are a Scientist.

They tried to tell you to stop playing God.

You replied, “Who’s playing?” and spliced in another gene.

What is an Abomination?

A living amalgamation of various forms of flesh, machinery, and whatever you can stick it together with. Some slimy, some hairy, some are covered in eyes. Others are a knot of tongues and fingers. An Abomination is whatever you can imagine it to be, tossed in a blender and put back together.

We’ve got some more BULLET POINTS:

  • An original 3-phase combat system that takes minutes to teach or learn.
  • 26 wild, wacky, and weird Genes to be combined into your unique Abomination – no two are alike!
  • 6 Doctor personas, each with a unique Ultimate Gene Ability that can turn the tides in your favor
  • Near-endless replayability through unique combinations of Doctor and Abomination
  • A satisfyingly crunchy yet simple d10 system that uses letter tiles to modify your rolls for defense and offense
  • Original art by Elliot Davis
  • A thematic, minimal character sheet, perfectly sized for placing and moving your letter tiles as you play

Abominations reads like an eldritch horror ‘mon game, using mix-and-match letter tiles to determine your Abomination’s abilities. Made for 2-6 players and designed to be GMless, it seems a good match for when you’re looking for some fun combat in the form of a squamous struggle.

Abominations is finished and released in PDF form, which will cost you $5 unless you get a community copy. This one is using ZiMo as a pre-order platform for a print run, copies of which will cost $15 (plus shipping if you’re outside the USA) with an estimated delivery of March ’22.

Aberrant Reflections

“Have you ever tried to look past your own reflection? What if you didn’t like what you saw there? You could never unsee it. Every time you passed a mirror, you’d always know what lurked just beyond its edge, waiting for you to look again.

Aberrant Reflections is a mirror-themed dungeon adventure inspired by Zelda and Metroidvania games. The adventure focuses on player-oriented challenges and puzzles that build on each other as new items and lore about the dungeon are acquired. Like its inspirational source, Aberrant Reflections provides a polished “Puzzle Box Dungeon” for your players to solve from the inside. It’s designed to be low-prep and system neutral, so you can use your favorite tabletop RPG ruleset and start playing Aberrant Reflections in minutes.”

I may have been frustrated by the Water Temple, and the Great Bay Temple was in my opinion even worse, but they were certainly memorable, and conquering them was very satisfying. You know the deal, you’ve got to explore to find the switches and the items and upgrades and so on to unlock more areas which will get you the chance to find more switches and items and upgrades for more areas – as the campaign states, a “Puzzle Box Dungeon.” I don’t tend to like puzzles in tabletop RPGs myself, running them or going up against, I don’t have the mind for most of them… but now that I think of it the ones I have enjoyed have turned out to be inspired by video games, so AR is on to something here.

On the KS to DTRPG pipeline, backing Aberrant Reflections for $8 will get you a digital copy and $15 the physical version, with an estimated delivery of September ’22. There’s also a $45 retail tier, and of particular interest is a $1 tier for community copies, two of which are created for every person who gets the $7 ‘Bundle of Joy’ add-on.

9 Lives to Valhalla

“You are a death metal viking cat, earning your place in the drinking halls of Valhalla by casting a wake of blood and carnage upon the blighted earth in each of your 9 lives. Guided personally by DEATH, your merry band will leave a wake of ruin ending only at the hands of a truly worthy foe. Find treasures, trade with merchants, mercenaries, or ghosts, and follow DEATH to seek worthy foes, fiendish traps, and ensure your place among the greatest warriors of catkind!

Nine lives to stalk the earth! Nine times to die with sword in paw! Nine Lives to Valhalla!”

9 Lives to Valhalla is the kind of game you’d see spray-painted on the side of a van, and I certainly mean that as a compliment. We’ve got wholesome animal games on the market already – some of them quite good, mind – so it’s good to see one that really lets the fur fly. And fly it shall, because every exchange of combat is going to see someone dying, possibly your cat warrior and possibly everyone involved at once. By the premise it might be easy to assume this all would be a little tongue-in-cheek, but there’s actually a pretty strong message of opposing tyranny throughout, in the form of taking on the Dogs who would see the return of The Leash from the fallen age of Man.

You can get a sneak peek at the game’s itch.io page. As for the campaign itself you’ve got your chip-in $1 and your add-your-cat-to-the-game $150 tiers, but the heart of the matter is $5 for a digital copy and $10 plus shipping to also get the physical zine, with an estimated delivery of August ’22.

The Case of ZiMo v. Kickstarter

Alright. Let’s talk about the megacorporation in the room.

That Round Up #1 didn’t have any Kickstarters was a coincidence of timing, not really a conscious choice, and percentage-wise Round Up #2 is closer to the reality of projects flying under the ZiMo banner in its inaugural year. That’s not very surprising – according to the plans of everyone aside from Kickstarter-as-of-a-month-ago, we should have been spending February up to our eyes in ZineQuest projects, not ZiMo projects.

It makes for a somewhat strange vibe, however. Part of the reason ZiMo got its start in the first place was the still-as-of-this-writing nebulous blockchain announcement, and the effort swelled when Kickstarter moved its own event to August, making ZiMo a haven for ZQ projects that didn’t feel like they could wait the extra months. Keeping in mind that both in the messaging and on the About page it is explicitly stated that Kickstarter projects will not be allowed to be a part of ZiMo 2023, and that no Kickstarter iconography is allowed on the ZiMo site itself, one could easily conclude that it’s purely an anti-Kickstarter effort.

And it kind of is, and that’s okay. Monopolies aren’t good for any industry, and with so many indie creators working in the margins they can be doubly bad. Kickstarter isn’t even a universally available monopoly – its geographic restrictions mean that much of the community couldn’t even use it in the first place, such as large chunks of the RPGSEA and RPGLATAM contingents. The fact is that – as Aaron pointed out, – the tabletop RPG industry, indie and in many cases otherwise, got used to Kickstarter as part of its infrastructure. Right now you have creators who have to make the call about whether or not they can get their game made if they don’t use Kickstarter, an issue that was present long before the recent shenanigans, and that’s not a good thing.

So, viewing ZiMo through the lens of telling Kickstarter to go pound sand isn’t wrong, but that’s a negative lens. I think you get closer to the heart of the matter by viewing it through the lens of its actual goal: building up infrastructure outside of a single company’s purview. It’s made complicated by the fact that, aside from harvesting a smaller crop of eyeballs, Kickstarter competitors do not yet have the same tools or ease of user interface, but to be blunt that’s never going to change if there isn’t more of a market incentive for Kickstarter competitors to put the time and money in. In the meantime, projects require eyeballs in order to get the money they need, and that’s what ZiMo is trying to provide.

Look, all of this happened very, very fast. Zine Month wasn’t even a “zine month thing” of an idea less than two months ago, and its rescue service status for marooned ZineQuest projects is even newer than that. So none of this is set in stone, and everyone up to and including ZiMo’s organizers are still figuring things out. I’ve seen more than one conversation go round in circles on ZiMo’s Discord, all of which ended with ‘let’s just get through this and then we can figure things out in March’.

Is Kickstarter going away re: the tabletop RPG industry? Hell no. It won’t even change how it operates now unless some more big earners start making a ruckus. Is Zine Month going to still be around next year? No clue. What’s it going to look like? Ditto. They’re not getting paid for this, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the ZiMo Kickstarters of today will pivot to ZiMo itchfunding/indiegogoing/gamefounding/etc. for their next project.

But right here and now the lesson to take away from Zine Month 2022 is that tying the industry to one platform makes creators vulnerable to changes and issues like the ones that have cropped up with Kickstarter recently, and that sometimes your best bet for getting help for your own project are fellow creators, not for-profit platforms.

Honestly, if you’re taking the Cannibal Halfling Gaming angle on things and focusing on the games, you’re doing the work that ZiMo really wants to do.


And focus on games we shall! 125 projects on the ZiMo site now as of this writing, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Check back next week for Zine Month Round Up #3!

4 thoughts on “Zine Month Round Up #2”

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