And the crowdfunding feels like a Carnival!
The games draw you in like a beer
And the folks at the bar, who put bread in my jar
They said ‘this month’s intro got real weird’
It’s December, usually a low time for crowdfunding. People have shifted their discretionary budgets towards holiday gifts, holiday travel, and anything else they need for this season’s set of traditions around turning on all the lights and screaming to beat back the coming solstice darkness. Even so! There are a number of interesting crowdfunding projects on at least two crowdfunding services which are worth a closer look.
First, a project which immediately got my money, even though it’s not technically a new game. The Hexcrawl Toolbox isn’t really a game at all, rather it’s a kit for running hexcrawls, wilderness exploration campaigns popularized early in D&D’s history. I personally love hexcrawls, and a set of 150 hex tiles that you can draw out of a bag Carcasssonne-style lit up all the shiny thing LEGO block centers of my brain in delightful ways. The tiles look lovely, and the toolbox does include a number of interesting procedures for running hexcrawl campaigns. Procedures are all the rage these days, right? The only tier you should really be looking at is the $75 tier for a physical box with all the tiles. A little dear compared to many games, but significantly more replay value than this year’s board game darling which will be played once and put on the shelf forever thereafter.
Rolling over to the Backerkit service for a moment we have Inscrutable Cities. While published by Jay Dragon’s Possum Creek Games outfit, known for Wanderhome and Yazeba’s Bed and Breakfast, Inscrutable Cities is primarily the work of Julian K Jarboe, and is described as a love letter to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. Like how Invisible Cities is a deconstruction of travel literature, Inscrutable Cities seeks to deconstruct worldbuilding games by putting the solo player in the middle of a fictional city, as opposed to building it from the top down. With urban settings at the fore in the last few years, Inscrutable Cities could be the next weighty journaling game of your dreams.
Continuing on the journaling game train back over at Kickstarter we have Chronicle Connection Plus. Taking place over 24 days in the 90s, Chronicle Connection Plus is a solo journaling game focused around the romance with your ‘Connection’. Does this make Chronicle Connection Plus a dating sim TTRPG? Well, that’s not what the description says but I know tropes when I see them. Not a huge amount to say from the campaign but the game is a svelte 40 pages and the price for a PDF a svelte $10.
Small games? Well, it sounds like a guy named Lance has made a better Fallout RPG than the Fallout RPG, and it too is about 40 pages. Radio Waves tells the story of a family living in a post-apocalyptic bunker when suddenly golden age radio starts streaming from the emergency broadcast frequency. You know, like exactly the music that makes up the soundtracks of the Fallout games? The game isn’t actually aiming to recreate Fallout, rather it’s a storytelling game using those same sorts of musical cues for atmosphere. As your stories end, you roll a die for one of six endings, which in the Deluxe Edition come in their own Mylar bags. Zine-sized and lyric in nature, Radio Waves looks good, has a good concept, and, for better or worse, the designer is undercharging. A measly $5 for a PDF should have you jump up to the $12 print tier without too much trouble. I did.
The Storymaster’s Tales is another interesting project, and one that takes the term ‘hybrid RPG’ seriously, as opposed to just being a board game with RPG elements. The Storymaster’s Tales is designed for accessibility, specifically stating it’s appropriate for ages 8 and above, and it does this by fusing its RPG core with a gamebook. The game uses maps with certain areas keyed to the gamebook, which like others provides a set number of options for interaction in each area. Based on the campaign descriptions Storymaster’s Tales looks to do a good job both expanding on the gamebook format while also making play very easy.
For another interesting form factor, we look at Tiny in the Tower. Tiny in the Tower uses the system Adventure Presents, but the interesting thing here is that the book (zine, really) is intended to be an all-in-one game, including rules, adventure, and characters, and needing only pens and dice to play the game. The actual campaign involves finding a local wizard who has disappeared in their tower, which is of course filled with all sorts of magical nonsense. Adventure Presents is an interesting idea and form-factor, but it’ll only ever really shine with community support and more support in general. This is likely why another Adventure Presents adventure, The Burglar of Brackwood, is included as a bonus in many tiers. I’d like to see more pick-up-and-play games like this succeed, but I suspect the model isn’t quite refined yet.
On an entirely different note is Lead and Gold. Lead and Gold places players in the aftermath of a heist gone wrong, having them draw cards to quickly establish characters and relationships. Of course, you might draw the ‘rat’ card, indicating you’re the snitch. Continuous draws from the deck escalate the stakes, and the game continues until everyone can shoot their shot (literally). Why does this sound so good? Well, looking at it from another angle, it’s an unholy combination of Werewolf (or Mafia, depending on which summer camp you played it at) and Fiasco, and that sounds incredibly cool to me. Of course, they got a pull quote from Jason Morningstar, which further reinforced this association in my mind. Just like Fiasco, Lead and Gold has the potential to not only be a cracking story game but also a platform on which you can bring your board game nerd friends to the dark side. I am all about this.
Let’s move into the mass market stuff for a little bit. In 1988, Frank Chadwick, best known as the designer of the original Twilight:2000, designed Space:1889 for Game Designer’s Workshop. While the original game lasted barely a year before being shelved and deemed a failure, it kept cropping up again, eventually being rereleased for Savage Worlds in the 2010s. Now, it’s getting a full-fat rerelease as Space 1889:After. The project is based firstly on the new Empyrean system, which is designed after concepts from the original Space:1889 and uses d6s, a d20, and a deck of playing cards. Of course, if you hate fun or love digging your heels in, there’s going to be a 5e version too. I don’t blame the designers for including it, but I will blame you for playing it, especially when there was clearly effort made on the more original side of the table. The game is actually being published separately in both versions, so if you’re truly lazy enough to insist that you will only play a remake of a game from before you were born in 5e, at least pay the $40 to get both versions in PDF.
Finally, there’s another full-bore supplement for Exalted:Third Edition. Sidereals: Charting Fate’s Course is the Sidereal supplement (kind of obviously), making sure that you finally have the charms, rules, and setting material you need to make your 3e game absolutely unplayable. That’s not completely correct; we don’t have a Fair Folk supplement yet, so the game is only going to be 90% unplayable with the addition of the Sidereals. This may seem unfair to Exalted fans, but I’ve played Exalted, and that was unfair to me. (And yet he did it twice… – Ed.) (Under duress! – A.) (“They put a flying guillotine to my head, officer!” – Ed.)
It’s hard to compete with the holiday gift season, so December is often a quiet month for the Crowdfunding Carnival. That said, we have a fairly decent spread here, including a number of interesting and inventive games. Game designers are trying to have a holiday season too, so if you see stuff here that you like or that intrigues you, everyone involved in those games would appreciate your support. Some of the gamers in your life may even appreciate a Kickstarter pledge as a gift, especially if it’s a nice substantial one, like the Hexcrawl Toolbox or a sweet upper-tier back done in their name. I hope everyone has a joyful holiday season, and I look forward to coming back with the next edition of Crowdfunding Carnival!
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