Happy late Halloween, and welcome to the Crowdfunding Carnival! Like many of my friends, I don’t see the start of November as the end of spooky season, especially as the time of the year is still dark and creepy. On Kickstarter, it’s very much the same. Yes, there are a lot of literal horror stories (the deliberate, good kind), but overall there’s way more treats than tricks across the crowdfunding platforms this month. As it’s getting colder, and as we’re setting our clocks back soon, it’s a great time to bundle up inside with a good game, and especially a good new game from one of the many campaigners out there. There’s actually many, many good games this month, more than I could possibly cover! That said, I do think my selection is a great place to start.
Typically, I like to focus on new games and standalone games in the Carnival. That said, there’s a lot going on this month, and even the new editions are happening enough to get at least some mention. In the straight-up new editions corner, Kids on Bikes is crowdfunding for a new edition on Kickstarter, as is Witch: Fated Souls. On Backerkit, Onyx Path is putting out a new book for their new edition of Scion, Scion:God. The biggest one, though, for me at least, is Paranoia. Mongoose, only five years after releasing their first revised edition of the cult classic, is releasing another one. Called ‘The Perfect Edition’ (which only Paranoia could get away with), Mongoose is revisiting their approach to Paranoia by, among other things, conceding that the ‘Red Clearance Edition’ leaned too far into wacky PvP antics and kind of lost the plot vis a vis the original game’s themes (I said as much in my comparison of Red Clearance to the earlier Paranoia XP). I’m certainly interested in this new edition of Paranoia, but I’m cautious about the amount of weight (and money) Mongoose is putting behind a game that has survived in part as a meme. While the Kickstarter campaign has already broken into six figures, I think the long-term viability of the game will depend on going back to some of the underlying themes of the first and second editions and making a game with more staying power than an expectations-violation romp of a one-shot that most groups play it as (and play it only once). Comedy games are hard, though, so we’ll see how that goes.
Speaking of which. Another big segment this month is licensed games, and while there’s plenty of those that come through in any given year, this month has two doozies, one of which is, yes, a comedy game. I’m talking about Monty Python’s Cocurricular Mediaeval Reenactment Programme, an actual licensed Monty Python game, where the Pythons chose to give the license to OSR grindhouse publisher par excellence Exalted Funeral. Now, it’s a Monty Python RPG, an RPG with the license to the property that gamers already get made fun of for quoting incessantly. Would you believe they’ve raised $1.5 million already? Well, duh, it’s a frigging Monty Python RPG, of course you would. But what about the game? I’m not sure it’s groundbreaking, but the design team has done what looks like a great job making the table experience as absurd as the content, which is really the only way you could expect to go about such a thing as a Monty Python RPG (they keep on insisting it’s not an RPG in the campaign, but I can only keep up so many charades in the span of one article). There’s a serious-silly dice continuum, and apparently a backgammon-based mini-game about throwing cows from catapults? It is definitely its own thing which, in these days of Fifth Edition, is appreciated.
But I said multiple licensed games, and I meant it. Apparently now is when we’re getting a Cowboy Bebop RPG? With a license granted in time for the show’s 25th anniversary (and any mentions of the live-action adaptation blessedly absent), Italian studio Mana Project is bringing Cowboy Bebop to the tabletop with a d6 dice pool system. The campaign acknowledges the heavy narrative weight the series has, and appears to capitalize on that with some interesting mechanical flair. Each session has three ‘tabs’ which present an archetypal episodic flow, and there’s a Fate Accelerated-like Approach system to cover how the character is getting things done, not just what they’re doing. There’s more to it than that, and there’s a Quickstart linked in the campaign if you want more details on how it comes together.
Unsurprisingly, there’s more…a whole lot more. Even the less populous crowdfunding sites are getting in on the fun this month. On IndieGogo there’s The Longest Rest, a storytelling game which operates from the classic D&D tavern scene and turns it into something quite different. Instead of finding rest at the tavern, the characters will discover that it seeks to trap them there, and they must either fight to escape or be trapped there forever. There’s a nice intersection of classic fantasy RPG tropes and horror tropes in this premise, and I think it has some solid storytelling potential. Speaking of horror, over at Gamefound there’s Shiver. Shiver is campaigning for a broader release in the form of ‘Double Feature’, where backers can pick up either the ‘Slasher’ or ‘Blockbuster’ version of the game, or of course both. Shiver appears to have some nice genre mechanics but also seems to be tied up in some long-standing RPG tropes (like character levels) that may not be serving the game well or at all. Still, the production values look good, and the game has received some existing acclaim, possibly from an earlier online version. If you’re a fan of slasher moves and b-horror, this may indeed scratch an RPG itch for you.
On Backerkit, TindyD6 champions Gallant Knight Games are campaigning Carrion Lands, a horror-adjacent OSR game (lots of horror…I guess Halloween is this week). Like most OSR games there’s not really a lot new here, but Carrion Lands aims to encapsulate the whole ‘still playing basic D&D’ experience with a horror bent, so if that’s your thing (and you’re already sick of Mork Borg somehow) this is worth checking out.
What else…what else indeed! There’s a whole lot going on this month, a lot of games and also a wide breadth of themes and mechanics. First that stuck out to me is Here We Used To Fly, a game about exploring an abandoned theme park. Create a character with two playbooks, your childhood self and adult self, and see the Attractions at the theme park in two completely different lenses as these different aspects of yourself. Lyric, in a way, but also deeply introspective in a way that I personally find irresistible.
On a slightly different tack is Fearsome Wilderness. Characters in Fearsome Wilderness find themselves awoken on a hostile planet full of creatures like those from North American folklore, bringing an interesting fusion of genres to the game. More interesting to me, though, is that Fearsome Wilderness is one of the first games using Free League’s Year Zero Engine through their recently released license and SRD. Really cool to see new games being made with some of the newer resources that are becoming available.
Continuing with the use of resources we have Castaway. Castaway is a horror game about characters washing up on a desert island, and has all of the trimmings in terms of survival mechanics, island encounters, making escape plans, and…dungeons. Of course there are dungeons. What makes this all the more brutal is that Castaway is adapted from Mork Borg, though it is completely standalone.
Coming back to the Carnival is Nightfall Games. Nightfall returned to the scene with the throwback goodness of SLA Industries Second Edition, and then capitalized on the license for The Terminator in RPG form. Now they’re campaigning a game called StokerVerse, which is (as you’d probably think) a game set in the world of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Based on the same rules as the new SLA Industries, StokerVerse places characters in 1890s London and surrounds them with characters from horror stories of the time, not just from Bram Stoker (though there are plenty of those) but also from his contemporaries (the campaign mentions Frankenstein). For me, combining 19th century horror with the ‘splatterpunk’ of SLA Industries sounds like a great time.
There’s another high-profile campaign going on this month, though maybe not from where you’d think. Gabe Hicks is designing and campaigning The Session Zero System, which is both a standalone storytelling game but also (kind of obviously) a tool to help build up character backstories and start points for a campaign. The game incorporates safety tools and campaign alignment tools, making it a one-stop shop for starting games. The game also comes with card decks for the ‘story paths’ described in the system, as well as an option for an art book.
It’s a busy month for RPG crowdfunding, and there’s a lot of excellent stuff circling around, both high profile and more obscure. I’m not going to say I’ve covered everything out there, but the ones that I’ve mentioned are all worth at least a look, if not a pledge. I’ve backed a few myself, just in the process of writing this article! It’s nice to see a bountiful harvest here, especially as it’s getting darker and colder outdoors. Read some quickstarts, back some games, and then come back next month for another Crowdfunding Carnival!
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