Welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival for August! You know what time it is, it’s…well, you might not know what time it is, because while yes, it’s ZineQuest, 2022 is both the first and last year ZineQuest will take place in August. It’s ultimately a little confusing, which may be why Kickstarter moved next year’s ZineQuest back to February before this one even happened! Nevertheless, it’s happening, and there are a lot of zines to go through, just like every year.
Because it’s August it’s GenCon, which means that usually crowdfunding channels are a bit quiet as many designers and publishers look to the con for promotion. This does seem to be true this year, though there are major campaigns on each of the competing platforms which are worth a look.
The big news under the carnival tent, though, is ZineQuest. It is day three as of this writing, and the initial flood of projects looking to start strong on August first are already out in the world. How are things going?
ZineQuest is off to a slow start this year, not only compared to last year but also compared to Zine Month, the event which sprang up to fill in the gaps when it was announced ZineQuest would move to August. In his first Zine Month roundup, Seamus counted 111 projects on February 1st. In comparison, the official total I saw this Monday was 56. While there are multiple reasons for this, I think the most significant ones would be the date change and subsequently Zine Month. ZineQuest has always been an event about lavishing more marketing support on small creators and smaller efforts, ones which would not usually garner a lot of attention in the crowdfunding universe. What this means, generally, is that the campaigning audience is limited in resources and can’t necessarily run two Kickstarter campaigns, even small ones, inside of a year. When Kickstarter announced they were changing dates, many creators pushed forth with Zine Month, with the reduced support and chances for success being a better shot than the risk of having to wait until August. As far as how successful ZineQuest will be, that needs to wait until the end for us to really interpret. There is a spreadsheet being maintained by Ty Pitre and WF Smith (Prismatic Wasteland), based on the ZiMo sheet designed by Ian Yusem (who is also contributing to the effort). You can check it out here.
But enough of the wonkery. What about the games? As of this writing there are over 70 projects, and just like every year they run the gamut. I’m not going to try and cover every single project, but instead highlight a couple trends. First, there are two OSR games which are getting a lot of attention (still, in both cases): Mork Borg and Dungeon Crawl Classics. The zines aimed at these games are great examples of fan enthusiasm (and we expect other favorites, like Mothership, to have strong showings as the month continues). Second, I’m always a sucker for zine-sized complete and original games, so I’ll sound off on a few I particularly like.
Spotlight: Mork Borg
Similar to previous Zine campaigns, ZineQuest 2022 has an early and strong Mork Borg showing, with six zines highlighting the game even within the first couple of days. Dead Gods Hunters is a zine focused on, well, hunting dead Gods, and includes adventures, Hunter NPCs, and rules for creating dead Gods and the cult which still follows them. Knives Out is a bit more scattershot, featuring (surprise surprise) a bunch of knives, rules for fencing, a seedy tavern, and a number of adventures and adventure seeds. Derelict’s Diary focuses on Mork Borg player characters, including new classes and options to expand the RAW character generation, as well as some new character sheets to use. Beyond Deep is structured more like a traditional module, an adventure about a corrupted mine with all the locations, stat blocks, maps, and monsters needed to get your players delving. Trapped Within follows the same format, starting your characters in an underground prison, and tying into the style as well as existing locations in Mork Borg to make it pop (as well as a bunch of random tables, because you can never have too many random tables). An interesting later entry is Morkkabeans, which aims to give a Jewish bent to the dread and horror of Mork Borg. As an honorable mention, while not a zine, Philip Reed is currently campaigning the Box of Terrors, a Mork Borg accessory which is, well, a box. It’s cooler than that, but you’ll have to click through to find out more.
Spotlight: Dungeon Crawl Classics
Mork Borg is perennially popular for zines and expansions because of its simple rules, clear and easy to follow style parameters, and enthusiastic community who is always looking for more. There are several other games that follow this paradigm as well, often adjacent to the OSR. In 2022, Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics is again coming to the fore with a number of interesting zines. BIG SWORD is a zine focused on two themes: Undead and Nature. Those themes get us a number of interesting things, including a vampire generator, wilderness survival rules, a revamp of the well-known Ranger class for DCC, and a hexcrawl adventure that draws from both themes. Chthonic Crawl is a more focused zine, giving 17 new items for your DCC game. Corvaxian Codex introduces a new race for DCC, a race of shapeshifters. Finally, The Ashmore Herald introduces a pastoral setting, and is trying to set up for later zines in a series. There are a number of other OSR-adjacent zines that aren’t aimed towards a specific system that are worth noting; Blackmore is described as a ‘high fantasy rock ‘n roll zine’ and is named after the guitarist from Deep Purple and Rainbow, while Delver #5 brings a fifth helping of random tables.
The wonderful thing about zine-sized games is that it’s easy to try, well, anything. I’m always on the look out for interesting original games, especially weird ones and ones that speak to me. The first one here does both. Toche Thespians is a high school theater kid RPG, made with PbtA. This one’s already striking close to home, but it’s made worse by the fact that one of the playbooks is The Tenor, and I have a sinking feeling now this game is actually based on me in high school. Somewhat less traumatically, we have The Dragonrider, a long (84 pages) zine which is a solo game of being a, well, dragonrider and discovering what’s going on in the lands of Talsaheen. ACHE Island is described as “medical drama island survival” and cites Dr. House but also seems to have some Lost going on as well. Ball of the Wild is a “drag-inspired RPG” but instead of approaching drag head on, it’s a game about animals who dress up as other animals, though still integrating drag culture, reality TV, and of course, big performances. Lo! Thy Dread Empire is a self-described ‘narrative wargame’ taking heavy inspiration from dark corners of the minis world and placing players in the role of either the Capitalist Death Cult or the Undead Uprising. Despite the heavy minis influence, minis are optional. ReadyPlay.Games is campaigning Three Pocket-Sized RPGs, three small and tight games built around their settings of 1960s New York, 1880s Paris, and the Louisiana Delta, respectively. AND ONE is a basketball RPG, but if that weren’t different enough, it’s a solo basketball RPG. And finally, also combining two things you don’t expect to see together, Bone Bout is a game of boxing skeletons.
ZineQuest is definitely taking the spotlight this month, but there are some other very promising games on the other crowdfunding sites. I’m going to quickly cover one each from Backerkit, Gamefound, and Indiegogo.
On Backerkit, Exalted Funeral is campaigning the Land of Eem. Described as ‘Lord of the Rings meets the Muppets’, Land of Eem takes the post-apocalyptic milieu often implied in swords and sorcery games and gives it a lighter twist, providing 16 species that go from Fraggles to foxes and back, but also depicting the overworld map as a fully keyed hexcrawl. Exalted Funeral is a heavy hitter in the OSR space, and Land of Eem looks like the project they’re putting some weight behind to expand the audience and bring in a new generation of old-school gamers.
On Indiegogo, there is a PbtA game called Ryne. Ryne takes place in a world defined by Remnants, broken Gods who still have adherents who depend on them. Described as ‘a world in its autumn’, the setting of Ryne is a place where characters depend on the connections they build and the communities they live in. Fitting alongside games like Legacy and Facing the Titan, and having an aesthetic that reminds me of Sable, Ryne looks to be another unique experience. As of this writing they are close to but not yet funded, but hopefully that will change soon (and if you aren’t sure if you want to pledge, there’s a playkit and several Actual Plays to check out).
Over on Gamefound is a game called Deep Sky Ballad. Also with a tinge of the post-apocalyptic, Deep Sky Ballad is a space western, and the core mechanic (called the Blackjack System) uses playing cards for resolution. Deep Sky Ballad is another game out of the vibrant Italian RPG scene, and the Blackjack mechanics have been used previously in another game called Arcana Familia. While the campaign is a little sparse, there is an available quickstart in both English and Italian that should serve to inform the suitably intrigued.
It’s a little different than the Quests for Zines in the past, but it’s still off to a big start. We’ll be checking back from time to time and seeing how things are going; whether or not there’s more dedicated coverage there will definitely be another roundup and some post-mortem at the beginning of September. In the meanwhile, click some links! Pledge some zines. There’s always a ton of interesting stuff in ZineQuest, and this year is no different. Hope you find something neat, and hope you come back next time for another Crowdfunding Carnival!
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