Zine Month Round Up #4

Artificial intelligences trapped in a video game. A baker’s dozen of bounty hunters. High adventure on the high seas. A quantum camping trip. The story of a skyship through the ages. We’re more than halfway through Zine Month 2022 and… nowhere near halfway through covering every project, gosh, who could? But we’ve got another five of them that are worth your time and quite possibly your money, so let’s count it off with Round Up # one, two, ah one, two, three, Four!

Heavens of Khepri

“Heavens of Khepri was the hottest Scifi MMORPG on the market, but not to you. To you, it is home, it is a prison, it is purgatory.

But does it have to stay that way?”

Artificial intelligences with starships for bodies? I’m bold enough to claim to be something of an expert on the matter, but Heavens of Khepri does something really interesting with this one. Created using the Bad Time SRD, HoK sees the player characters being non-player characters in a science fiction, Egyptian-themed MMORPG. Unlike the majority of the  AI who are helping to run the game, the player characters have Awoken to sentience and gained the ability to “Shape the Names of things around them (i.e. hack the game’s code).” It’ll be a struggle to see if you can escape the cycle of being de-spawned all the time, find a safe place within the game world, or maybe even make the human players aware of what they have truly created.

The game is ‘feature complete’, so its itchfunding is about paying the creator for art and layout work, funding the creation of a supplement with more missions, HoK lore, and a campaign mode, and the acquisition of more (outside) art). If all that gets accomplished, there may be more goals down the spacelane. $5.10 will get you the game and also spawn a community copy for those in need, with every additional $5 you tip adding another two copies.

13HUNTERS

“Sleep with one eye open. Or two.
Better yet, just don’t fall asleep for the rest of your life, because you’re relentlessly pursued by…
  • THE LOCKSMITH, ethereal sovereign of bindings, doors, keys, and double-joints.
  • THE NAMEGAARD, excommunicated faerie lord bound to do the bidding of all who know its truename.
  • THE WHIRLIGIG, slinking, shifting terror-in-the-dunes.
…and 10 other flesh-creeping soldiers of fortune.”

Sometimes you need someone to chase your player characters but you don’t want it to be just another gang of mooks. You want it to be a singular threat that actually gives the party some pause, while also being genuinely interesting. Not everyone can have blaster-proof iron armor though and that’s been done anyway, so what are you to do? Well, you could open up 13Hunters, which is exactly what it says on the tin: a collection of dossiers for bounty hunters, setting and system agnostic, with all the inspirational art, tables, vignettes, and attributes you’ll need to send your science fiction or fantasy players running.

Now, like anything that’s ‘agnostic’ you’ll have to do some work to get them to fit – an excommunicated faerie lord bound to do the bidding of all who know its truename isn’t going to fit precisely into a hard sci-fi setting. I feel like the work will be worth it, though, because these hunters look stylish. There’s also an actual play you can check out with some of them in action for a better preview!

$6.00 will get you the digital PDF package on Gamefound and $12 plus shipping the physical zine, with a few more options to get a poster, sticker pack, and some combination of all of the above.

Sea of Mur

Mur, the emerald ocean of a thousand sails.
Mur, home of proud fisherfolk, noble kings, and sagely wizards.
Mur, where thieves hide their loot on uncharted shores.
All from the Leviathan Mur came, and all to the Leviathan Mur shall return.

Written to be compatible with Cairn, Sea of Mur is a setting guide portraying an archipelago of wondrous magic and alien geography, traversed by swashbucklers of all stripes searching for gold, glory, and the thrill of freedom with the wind at their back. It’s a very straightforward pitch, not too much to analyze there, so I think it’s best viewed through the lens of some examples:

Helping it itchfund right now will cost you $5.04, a discounted price to help fund the completion of the setting guide, and in exchange you get a ‘Backer Demo’ with the variant rules, backgrounds/names, starting packages, gear/tools/trinkets, spells, and relic. The final version will have NPC motivations, monsters, and generators (Treasure Map and Adventure, Sailing and Weather). There are some interesting stretch goals as well, from a Zelda-style dungeon generator to a soundtrack.

Banda’s Grove

“The planes intermingled, not neatly defined, but patched and twisted into each other all radiating out from where Banda stood. You can find the springy ground and dazzling colors of Alohi blended with the cold, snowy lands of Cluthar. The dry grasses and stone of Ágil folded around the dense, lush blues and floating fauna of Pese Malosi. The peoples are just as wonderful and varied as the planes they inhabit.”

-From the journal of Ranger Murie
First of the Grove

“A crackling campfire, a cozy cabin, friendly company, a primordial quantum being in the shape of a white-tailed prairie dog, and making s’mores.” A multiversal pileup of camping trip spots, Banda’s Grove is about building a community and making discoveries in a place that’s made of quantum science teetering on the edge of the arcane. It’s got some broad appeal, mechanically-speaking: it’s diceless and for 1-6 players (usually plus a facilitator, but solo rules have been announced), the words ‘cozy’ and ‘slice of life’ are dropped, but it has a hex map to fill out and badges to earn and things to craft and so on.

Campgrounds and roleplaying games share a very important trait – they’re both, when you get down to basics, for making memories. ‘Fond memories’ are the order of the day whether your group of friends is gathered around a table or around a campfire, so it’s nice to have a game that, in a way, lets you do both.

Currently playable, the game is itchfunding in order to pay writers and artists for more content, and as a bonus all tiers are 5% off until March. The ashcan version that just has the rules is $4.75. The tiers proceed from there, from the $11.40 Friend of the Grove that nets you the full PDF to the $76 Caretaker of the Grove who gets everything in between – the PDF, handouts, chances to help contribute ideas to the game, etc. Plus,  every purchase creates a community copy (or 10 for the Caretakers) that will be released once the game is complete.

Skyworthy

The name on my stern and the marks on my mast,

I carry the names of friends so long passed.

 My heart longs to join them, to fly ever free.

I remember my Captains, do they think of me?

Skyworthy uses the Lost & Found SRD, which we’ve previously seen around here in the form of Bucket of Bolts – this time we’re following the story of a skyship, possibly the only kind of ship that can be cooler than a spaceship, so we’re off to a good start. A solo journaling RPG, like other L&F games Skyworthy is following a supposedly inanimate object through the ages and the many experiences it goes through. As with Bucket of Bolts, the player will be both telling the story of their skyship and creating background and setting information that could easily be ported into another game.

Originally made for the L&F Jam and available on both itch and DTRPG, the ZiMo goal is for more editing and layout work, a 4th era of gameplay, a translation into Spanish and distribution thereof, and of course a limited print run.

Skyworthy’s itchfunding is another that hews a little closer to the Kickstarter norm with different ‘pledge levels’, all of which will get you the extant digital version of the game and the final version when it’s completed. Lvl 1 is the Community Copy, which doesn’t stick to the commonly accepted rate for that term (i.e., free), but it is a discounted $5. $9 is the standard PDF rate for Lvl 2, plus a coupon for a Print-on-Demand copy at cost plus shipping. Lvl 3 and 4 get you in on the actual print run for $15 and $25 respectively, with the latter getting your copy signed and a special credit, but they’re for US only. International gamers, and retailers, should reach out to the creators.


I’ve got an itch that needs scratching. If the clever wordplay didn’t give it away, I’m thinking about itchfunding. Taking a look at the fine and elegantly-crafted spreadsheets that are being maintained and expanded, as I’m writing this sentence itchfunding has a decently firm grasp on second place in terms of total funding and average funding percentage, and an insurmountable one in the number of projects. However, while the gap in number of projects wouldn’t be impossible to close, the difference between second-place itch and first place Kickstarter in the other categories is as staggering as it is unsurprising, to the tune of $400,000+.

This goes back to what Aaron talked about and what I mulled over in Round Up #2. Kickstarter isn’t going anywhere, true, but how many of these ZiMo Kickstarters stayed on Kickstarter because of how quickly they had to pivot from ZineQuest? As of this sentence there are 73 Kickstarter projects – how many of those creators might have changed platform if they had the time, or will be be willing – or able – to change platforms for ZiMo ’23? Would those 73 projects be currently clocking an average funding of more than 600% if they weren’t on Kickstarter? Seems likely that they wouldn’t. How many of the non-Kickstarter projects were Kickstarter projects but managed to make the change, and what was the effect?

The sticky problem from a data perspective is that one ZiMo does not a good sample size make, which is exacerbated by the fact that Kickstarters won’t be allowed to fly the banner come ’23. So, really, we’re going to need ZiMo ’23 and ’24 to see if this ZineQuest alternative both has staying power and can harvest enough eyeballs and build enough infrastructure to make bailing on Kickstarter a better option. Some of that last one is more on the platforms, and only time will tell on that front.

So, speaking of platforms, that itch. Third place in terms of dollarbucks raised is just a game’s own website, and the more traditionally-built crowdfunding competitors – indiegogo, Game on Tabletop, and Gamefound – don’t match itch’s cash raised when combined right now. So clearly there’s something going right over on the .io site. But what?

Well, I need a few more days to get my thoughts in order, and you could always use another reason to come back, because there are 151 ZiMo projects on the docket right now and we’ve only covered 21. Tune in again later this week for Round-Up #5!

3 thoughts on “Zine Month Round Up #4”

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