Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for October! This month, as the leaves turn and the days grow shorter, many designers, from the US and Italy and Sweden and other far-off places, are all ready to bring you autumn light in the form of new RPGs! Like most months, there were far too many games to cover all sufficiently, so here is my top ten; nine games and one collection of indie gaming material that (in my opinion) is too good to pass up. Whether you’re looking for Autumn leaves in The Forest Hymn and Picnic or something spooky in Things from the Flood, this crop is a perfect harvest for October.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise- grim and gritty is fun. Since 1986, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has built off of the setting of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle miniatures game to offer adventures and untimely deaths in the Old World, a “Europe with the serial numbers filed off” beset by both feudal politicking and chaos beasts from beyond. Now, in 2018, the Fourth Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) has recently hit stores, ready to introduce a new generation of gamers to “A Grim World of Perilous Adventure”. But like so many grim and perilous things, WFRP has had a difficult quest to get to this point. Before we dive into the game, let’s talk about WFRP’s 32 year history and why Fourth Edition is so pivotal.
Ah, Fiasco. While not one of the first narrative games or one of the most unique, Fiasco captured the hearts of players because it accomplishes what it sets out to do so well. A game of characters with powerful ambition and poor impulse control, Fiasco takes the recipe set out by its predecessors like Primetime Adventures and distills it to one zany formula, bearing more than a passing resemblance to a Coen Brothers movie. Requiring only a few six-sided dice and one key decision point, Fiasco is a sweet and simple narrative game that can do no wrong.
Kickstarter is a wild frontier of new games and new gaming ideas; the wide range of what’s out there is one reason I try to write about it every month. Every once in a while, though, an idea emerges that keys into something and gets people excited. While the Kickstarter for Something Is Wrong Here showed up too late for Kickstarter Wonk this month, I backed the game after seeing friends recommend it. As soon as I shared the campaign to my Facebook page, more of my friends lit up. “Twin Peaks RPG” and “David Lynch RPG” were pushing all the right buttons for many people I knew.
Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! We’re apparently in the midst of a GenCon hangover, as it’s once again tough to come up with a full top ten games. There are tons of campaigns, but mostly for settings, supplements, and accessories. And while I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the Main Gauche supplement for Zweihander, we’re looking for new games here, people! Fear not; I’ve come up with nine interesting ones, and rounded the list out with a second edition so intriguing I backed it as I was writing this article. How’s that for an endorsement?
Welcome back to The Independents! It’s time for a gear-up montage as we check out a new offering from the sibling-run outfit Samjoko Publishing! Action movies and RPGs both grew up around the same time, and during the 80s when both forms were fresh, there was some crossover. The James Bond RPG, Ninjas and Superspies, and later Feng Shui and Spycraft all approached movie tropes when developing their playstyles. Now, though, the feel and, dare I say it, choreography of modern action movies has come to RPGs in the form of Operators. Kyle Simons has taken a very different approach from other games in developing Operators, focusing on the fast pace and tight camera work of movies like The Bourne Identity and Mission: Impossible instead of the technical details of their cars, gadgets, and guns. While the game hasn’t been fully released on retail sites like DriveThruRPG, physical rewards have been sent out to Kickstarter backers, meaning the game is pretty close to final form.
For the first time, Elliot found himself pulled through a fairy door. He could tell he was in his homeland, but nowhere he had ever been. But when he called to the laughing voice, she responded. Apparently the party’s fates were now intertwined with this being, and at some point in the future, they’d have to choose between the fairy world and the “concrete world”.
Elliot awoke in a cold sweat. Actually, more of a hot sweat. He was prone on the floor in a room he didn’t recognize, surrounded by wisps of steam that he did not know were Mephit corpses. “How long was I out?”
A Cannibal Halfling mainstay since well back into the Mad Adventurers days has been Meet the Party: a collection of ready-made adventurers to get your creative juices flowing for a number of game systems. Today, we’re introducing something different. Nipping at the heels of System Hack but less mechanical, looking for detail like Meet the Party but more broad, we have Meet the Campaign! Cannibal Halfling examples and Level One Wonk playstyle editorials come together in a mashup that might even be useful.
Dungeons and Dragons has a long and storied history, but like all long and storied histories there are some bumpy parts. When Third Edition (3e, and then 3.5e) came out, the first version of the game produced by Wizards of the Coast, many of the old guard were less than pleased. It was this reaction that planted the seeds for the OSR movement, in addition to the Open Gaming License (OGL), which made it easier to use the basic mechanics of existing D&D rulesets. Despite having detractors, 3e was wildly successful, so successful that it too inspired a wave of dissatisfaction when it was replaced by the significantly revised Fourth Edition (4e). The shift in design and the decision to discontinue the OGL at the end of the 3.5e product run not only alienated some players, but left many content producers hung out to dry. One of these was Paizo Publishing, a well-regarded outfit who had made a name for themselves publishing Dungeon and Dragon magazines. When this license expired in 2007, the entire company was in jeopardy. It was then that Paizo made a bold move and developed its own OGL-based game, Pathfinder.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on Kickstarter . . . the lazy relaxed summer of June and July has given way to the insanity of a pre-GenCon product push! There were over twenty Kickstarters of new games, and even after picking out the second editions of recent games (Reign, Geist) and games we’ve already covered, it was still tough to narrow it down to just ten! The ten here represent games that do something new, whether it be through new mechanics or new ideas for settings. There are also a couple revivals, which are more than mere second editions due to long absences from publication as well as dramatic rules revisions. All in all, this set of ten Kickstarters represents a swathe of games that are giving us something new with rules, genre, or format.