Crowdfunding Carnival: April, 2022

Welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival for April! Or, as the data puts it, ‘Kickstarter Wonk plus Possum Creek Games’. Because unless you’re backing Yazeba’s Bed and Breakfast, Kickstarter is the only game in town. Despite Possum Creek doing fairly well with their campaign, Kickstarter is still pulling 85% of all funding this month. And, given that YBB alone is literally all of the rest of it, we’re playing with outliers a bit here in the analysis.

Two thoughts, which pull in opposite directions. First, the hobby’s capacity for outrage at Kickstarter for announcing work on blockchain tech is fairly exhausted. A cynic could say this is entirely because of short memories, but I’d point out that the environment has changed. NFTs, probably the least useful and most obnoxious technological fallacy to grace social media in the decade so far, have plummeted out of the public eye as there’s still nobody who knows how to make them useful or desirable. At the same time, Kickstarter’s own announcements about their, erm, announcement have backed them into a corner where they’ve said they won’t do anything that would make their user base change their behavior in any way. And finally, although it’s not definitive, the departure of Kickstarter’s CEO provides a golden opportunity to just drop the whole thing. My guess is that while the whole thing probably won’t get dropped, the spinoff platform being promised will probably be shuffled off to the side until the technology could actually be made helpful for Kickstarter’s underlying business model. That might take a while.

On the other hand, the announcement from Gamefound that they’re opening up their platform into an open beta indicates that the lack of activity on the site so far is for a reason. With a fresh infusion of capital from Ravensburger, Gamefound really could become a tabletop-centric competitor for Kickstarter in a big way. They *still* need a UX redesign, but at least they’re better than Indiegogo (no, seriously).

Although Gamefound is heading in the right direction, they’re going to need to compete with Kickstarter on its own merits. Adam Vass, designer of the last off-Kickstarter outlier, Cyber Metal 2012, is returning to Kickstarter with his newest project, Soul Burner (more below). And Possum Creek, for as good as Yazeba’s is doing, is going in the same direction that Adam and World Champ Game Co did, leaving tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table by not using Kickstarter and their significantly larger userbase. What will become of the Crowdfunding Carnival? Hard to say, but this is the second month in a row where, less outliers, Kickstarter is at nearly 100% project share. I’m looking forward to Gamefound’s open beta ramping up (it’s been barely more than a week since the announcement and there have already been some new campaigns that came after my Monday count), but for now we have a carnival with only one tent.

It’s a big tent, though! There’s a cross-selling experiment, a courtroom drama, and even a game based on the music of Faith No More! Let’s check some stuff out.

Justicar

Justicar is a really neat concept that zeroes in on the form and decorum of a courtroom drama. While other games in this sort of ‘high-concept one-shot’ space, like Alice is Missing or Fiasco, tend to lean towards GM-less as a descriptor, Justicar designer Nevyn Holmes sees this game as more of a two-GM structure. There are four roles in the courtroom; the Judge and the Stand share the GM role by adjudicating the game and establishing more of the story, respectively. Meanwhile, the other two players, Prosecution and Defense, lead the story through to a conclusion. The game is focused on collaborative storytelling, but also clearly plays up the differing and sometimes adversarial roles that are established at the table, making for what sounds like a fascinating experience. Like many games that depart from a traditional format, Justicar benefits from examples, and the campaign includes a link to an actual play from Plus One XP if you want to see the game in action. Justicar puts forth a new format for RPG courtroom drama, and I think it could work very nicely. $15 gets you a PDF.

The Real Thing

In what is possibly the strangest and coolest RPG license I have ever seen, The Real Thing is a PbtA game which is not only inspired by Faith No More but actually officially endorsed by the band. Now I know you don’t come to Cannibal Halfling Gaming to hear me sing the praises of Mike Patton’s bands, but I have a chance to now, especially given how cool they’re being giving a project like this official sanction.

The game is heavily thematically based on Faith No More’s music, specifically the album The Real Thing, which should not be surprising given the name of the game. Beyond this fairly narrow setting, the game trades on the early 90s more broadly, both in music and RPGs. With Vampire:the Masquerade, the time period when The Real Thing was released was also a period of major upheaval in the RPG hobby, above and beyond everything else going on in the world. The game mechanics previewed in the campaign keep everything on the lighter side of PbtA, but also trade heavily on the players putting their own experiences and ideas into the story. Oddly for everything else being campaigned this month, The Real Thing is the slice-of-life game that immediately gets my attention…but if you look at my old CD wallet maybe that’s not so surprising. $10 gets you a PDF.

Soul Burner

The latest from Adam Vass, Soul Burner is another experiment in pushing the boundaries of the OSR/NSR movements, weird fiction, and highly thematic RPGs. Soul Burner is a dark game focusing on themes of death and unreliable memory, among others. This may sound like it’s ground that’s been tread before, and that is actually very intentional. Soul Burner acts as a rules bridge between two games, Mork Borg and Vass’s earlier game Necronautilus. It’s not quite as out there as Necronautilus, a game where the characters are sentient clouds of toxic gas, but neither does it really sit down with the OSR tropes of Mork Borg either. In Soul Burner, you are an ashen corpse, liberated from the physical constraints of being alive. To that end, as Adam writes in the campaign, Every Dice Roll Changes Who You Are. If you already own, have read, or even have played either Necronautilus or Mork Borg, Soul Burner will fit into your cursed bookshelf nicely. $13 gets you a PDF.

Shield Maidens

Viking Cyberpunk. Shield Maidens seemingly found its genre ‘because why not’, but the idea of advancing the figures of Viking myth into a dark future is actually pretty cool. Shield Maidens design is led by Matthew Sprange, a Mongoose vet and one of the lead designers on Mongoose’s edition of Traveller. While Shield Maidens advertises itself as Cyberpunk, the structure of the game is much more science fantasy, using high tech and Viking myth to set up a pretty traditional adventure game experience in a 2d6 engine like that originally seen in Traveller. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. That said, backers going in should know this is a mythic science fantasy experience…there might be high tech, but there’s no low life. Marketing hazards aside, Shield Maidens looks like an interesting and creative addition to Mongoose Publishing library. £15 (~$20) gets you a PDF.

Tidal Blades

Licensing is a pretty hot topic in TTRPG discourse. What about…co-marketing? Tidal Blades is a tropical fantasy board game, and the current Kickstarter being run by Druid City Games is for the sequel, Tidal Blades 2. As part of this, though, Druid City is also releasing a Tidal Blades RPG, which is being co-marketed as part of the same campaign. While RPGs and board games can definitely fit together (consider Root), this is probably the first time I’ve seen the two sold together in this way. The RPG, built on Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System, takes the Tidal Blades setting, an island fantasy world called Naviri where the playable races include crocodiles and turtles, and opens it up, providing background and worldbuilding to move away from the board game’s dungeon crawl-style mechanics. The RPG also, weirdly, fills in the funding tiers for the campaign; the lowest tier at which you receive a copy of the board game is around $90, but you can back for a PDF of the RPG at a much cheaper (and fairly standard) $25. And while there will likely be add-on options, the only tier that by default includes both the RPG and the board game starts at an eye-watering $215. Despite (or maybe because of) the high initial price, Tidal Blades is the biggest campaign this month by funding, at nearly $750,000 as of this writing. And with over 1000 backers going for the $215 package deal, it appears that the co-marketing experiment works and works well.


We’re seeing a nice variety of games in the carnival this month. There are indie efforts as well as trad tentpoles, and all in all a good mix of really interesting stuff. Now that winter is well and truly over, it looks like we’re seeing some real activity out in the crowdfunding space. As I’m always on the hunt for the next new game, that’s always a good thing. Want to shout out another project? Think there’s something I overlooked? Leave a comment below, and I’ll see you next month for another Crowdfunding Carnival!

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