It’s July! The weather is hot, and the RPG crowdfunding is…at least a little air conditioned. It’s the month before GenCon, and that means all the big design houses have their sights elsewhere, at least for the most part. Even so, there are plenty of games around and even some worth throwing money towards!
Speaking of GenCon. The biggest crowdfunding-related news in the last month was Kickstarter’s announcement that ZineQuest 2023 would be held in February, even though ZineQuest 2022, moved to August at the beginning of this year, hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t exactly know why this announcement was made so early; if it has any effect it’s probably to take the wind out of the sails of the event that’s scheduled for next month. It is possible that pre-launch metrics aren’t looking pretty, or that the GenCon co-marketing opportunities that were purportedly the reason for the time switch in the first place didn’t materialize. No matter the reason, we’ll be here next month covering ZineQuest 2022, just like we have for the last few years.
For now, though, let’s look at what’s around the space. The analysis isn’t surprising; Kickstarter once again has the lion’s share of campaigns by both count and funding volume. There is some news on that front that at least provides foreshadowing, though. While Gamefound and Indiegogo are performing as we’ve come to expect, there is a new entrant, which makes me excited to see what happens when they leave beta in 2023.
The big news in the crowdfunding world at large is that Backerkit, one of if not the largest crowdfunding fulfillment and pledge management providers, is stepping out with their own crowdfunding platform. As a provider to many companies who use Kickstarter, Backerkit is uniquely positioned to make a platform that actually strikes the right chord of both campaign features and support as well as backer accessibility and ease of use. The site doesn’t have any RPG campaigns live yet, though there are currently six projects live and twenty-three coming soon. It’s worth noting: the site is in beta, so they aren’t accepting submissions now other than from their channel partners. Still, the campaigns are real, and this will give us a good chance to test out the site and hopefully give feedback.
Gamefound has been out of their beta for a few months now and they’re doing well, though most of the campaigns are board game-centric. Still, there are a few RPG campaigns worth talking about. See Issue X is a neat take on the superhero genre, where playing arcs of your character can give you a chance to fill in their backstory. The core mechanic involves marking up a deck of cards; I found this idea intriguing when it was used in Unbound and here, where the cards control recurring narrative elements, it seems to be perfect for what the game is trying to do. The campaign ends on Friday (very early on Friday for us Americans), so check it out and see if you want to help push it across the finish line!
Plant Girl Game is about plant girls, or at least plant children. If you’ve wanted a character who was birthed from a succulent, this may in fact be the only game for you. More seriously, the game centers around your party of plant children trying to stop an ecological disaster. There are a few numerical mechanics, but the game is primarily narrative, driving ahead just as much on the player-facing questions and group setting creation (your town and your Mom) as the skill checks. If you want to know more, there is an ashcan edition available for free on itch.io.
Despite the occasional high-profile campaign, Indiegogo hasn’t really gained the sort of popularity it needs to continue being relevant in the RPG crowdfunding space (great for e-bikes and ludicrous camping equipment, though). Case in point, this month we have one (yes, one!) game being campaigned, a game by the Bakers called The Last Adventure. Now, considering this is the first family of Powered by the Apocalypse, one could logically assume that whatever game they put out would be successful no matter the channel (just like the Exalted supplement Seamus highlighted last month). The Last Adventure is a zine-sized game, technically in the Wizard’s Grimoire series, about an adventurer who was had their last adventure and is now dead. These games are continuing exploration in the discrete game space started by Firebrands; both Firebrands and The Wizard’s Grimoire are about discrete game ‘chunks’ which can be used in combination to tell a greater story than their parts.
It’s also worth noting that, though not a game, Big Bad Con is running their 2022 membership drive via Indiegogo as well. If you’re interested in Big Bad Con and can make it to San Francisco in October, this is how to get your badge! If you’re unable to attend for whatever reason, there are other pledge tiers which allow you to support the con anyway and get in on some virtual gaming sessions being run before the con proper.
Kickstarter has the widest range of games on offer, though you do have to browse through a whole lot of people trying to sell minis, dice, and 5e splatbooks to get there. While this month has a fair number of games and supplements, there aren’t as many high-profile campaigns as there are earlier in the year, and GenCon is a big reason for that. Starting a big campaign in July is a good way to get overshadowed in August, and it’s clear that the big names are steering clear for that reason. There are a few exceptions; Spidermind Games is campaigning the third installment in their Legendary Kingdoms gamebook series and has cleared over $150,000 so far. Gamebooks are not typically high profile products, but the medium has come a long way since Fighting Fantasy and it’s good to see them out there. The other interesting game from a known name is technically a supplement, but as it’s the first time I’ve heard of the game I’ll include it anyway. Steve Jackson Games is campaigning One Roll Chronicles, an adventuring supplement for their dice game One Roll Quest. Originally cooked up for the second Random Fun Generator Kickstarter, One Roll Quest is one big six-sided die with a bunch of little dice inside it. Roll the die once, and a whole adventure happens. One Roll Chronicles fleshes this out, but it’s still meant as a quick and silly game, much closer to Munchkin than GURPS. Still, if you like quick games, dice games, or gimmicky dice, this is worth a look.
When it comes to completely new games, though, indie is where it’s at this month. Let’s start with a doomed trip to the state fair! Butter Princess is based on Trophy Dark, and centers around a state fair and a ninety pound sculpture of a midwestern beauty pageant winner made entirely out of butter. While the designers seem like they’ve taken the impending doom of Trophy Dark to heart, the end of this game is described as “a polka-ridden climax under exploding fireworks”.
Want something a little more grounded? Check out Bard RPG. I knew the designer had a psychology background before reading their bio, mainly because the characters are based on the Jungian archetypes. The mechanics all build up to story elements, with ‘story threads’. ‘plot points’, and ‘plot twists’ directly portrayed in the rules. While the mechanics go hard on non-diegetic, story facing elements, the actual structure of the game mostly sticks with the traditional player/GM split, calling the GM, as one would expect, the Narrator. I think this could be a really interesting approach to running a game, and keeping the traditional narrative split makes the whole thing a litmus test for people who claim that they don’t like story games.
Looking among the small and forgotten campaigns for something new? Many very small Kickstarter campaigns are that way because they’re a bit unbaked, a bit derivative, or both. There are gems, though. Sitting at less than $800 at this writing and a bit more than half funded is Sins of the Adventurers. The concept of this one is intriguing: Monsters aren’t evil, it’s the adventurers and their magic who made them this way. There are monsters to overcome, but continuing the adventurers’ old ways will just perpetuate the cycle. Instead, each monster has a Core Solution, a nonviolent way to either bring them rest or return them to what they once were. While the campaign falls prey to the ‘more is more’ mode of marketing, trumpeting just how many classes and items it has, the underlying concept is really interesting and the game’s dedication towards representation is admirable.
There’s more, though! Wyrd Science is campaigning for their magazine’s third issue. The DUNGENERATOR is a deck of cards which lets you deal out dungeon layouts on the fly, and the designer is campaigning a second deck. Cepheus Deluxe is campaigning for a reprint of its system built on the Traveller retroclone Cepheus Engine. And there’s also Alchemistresses, a game about magical girls and feelings. Alchemistresses would normally go in with the standalone games (that’s what it is, after all), but I’ve gotten a hold of the designers, and have a bit more to say about this one. Check it out, of course, but also, watch this space.
With GenCon holding everyone’s attention, there’s some opportunities for the small and quirky games to come out and thrive. Whether it’s butter statues or plant girls, Jungian psychology or dead adventurers, there’s a lot new and different around the crowdfunding world this month. Once you look past the licensed board games and the fancy dice (and all the Fifth Edition stuff), there are unique ideas looking to find eyeballs, and good ones at that. Hope you’re staying cool this summer, and able to do some crowdfunding yourself. Don’t make too many pledges, though: Next month is ZineQuest, and we’ll be covering it here in the Crowdfunding Carnival!
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