Category Archives: The Independents

Reviews of tabletop role-playing games created by independent and small publishers!

The Independents: Five Torches Deep

The real trouble with edition changes, once you get past the nit-picking, is the missed experiences. Different editions of a game can offer very unique things to their players, but die-hard fans of the older variety miss out on the active ecosystem of the current edition, while newer players miss out on the playstyle of older dungeon delving that they might very well love. Stepping in to bridge the gap is Five Torches Deep from Jessica and Ben Dutter and Sigil Stone Publishing, a “streamlined adventure game combining the best mechanics and principles of 5e, the OSR, and modern game design.” So how bright does FTD  shine? Let’s go chapter by chapter to find out!

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The Independents: Afterlife: Wandering Souls

“Welcome to the Tenebris. You died and something went wrong. You were meant to ascend to heaven, walk the path of reincarnation, be food for worms—that did not happen. Instead, you took a solemn boat ride across darkened water with other lost souls. Desperately trying to retain memories from your former life, you realised you died and cannot go back. The light at the end of the watery tunnel revealed an endless desert, known by its inhabitants as the Tenebris—the dark.” You’ll have to fight against the death of hope, find your own memories and learn about your own past, and find your way to the true Beyond in Afterlife: Wandering Souls from Angry Hamster Publishing!

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The Independents: Undying

I have a confession to make: I’m a fan of vampires in fiction. I honestly think that they are an excellent concept in supernatural action and horror, largely due to much of their mythos having easy ties to profound themes such as seduction, addiction, lost innocence, alienation, and the loss of humanity. Toss in a large chunk of my formative years suffused with badass supernatural bloodsuckers brought to life in films such as Blade, Underworld, Interview with the Vampire, and Queen of the Damned (plus TV shows such as Buffy, Angel and Hellsing) and you get a player who, even now, gets giddy at the chance to play in a game with a vampire focus. So when I find out that the company that is both behind my favorite Powered by the Apocalypse game (Masks) and already knows how to do horror well (Bluebeard’s Bride) already has such a game on the shelf…well, I couldn’t stay away. Which is what has brought me to Undying by Magpie Games.

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The Independents: Heroic Dark

“Your world will fall unless you risk it all. Are you ready to collaboratively design a world you must defend? Create powerful characters destined to fight the ever-present Darkness? Solve challenges, fight battles, and risk death and injury to save the realm? Heroic Dark is a build-your-own setting game about heroes defying the forces of darkness that threaten their world. The GM and players work together to tell a one-of-a-kind story about danger, sacrifice, and hopefully victory.” The odds are against you. The ending is uncertain. But if this opening pitch catches your eye, then you might find yourself one of those brave enough to fight the good fight in a setting of your own making with Heroic Dark!

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The Independents: For the Queen

There she stands on high mountain, overlooking her domain: My Queen, my Love, the woman who will kill me. I know she has planned my end, yet still I love her with every ragged shred of my darkened heart. No matter how hard she tries, she will not find peace while I yet live. My death will sever the line of inheritance of the Duchess, and quell her rival’s ambition. Perhaps when I lay still this war will end, and she may remove her cloak and veil and rest easy on the throne she has always deserved. Yet for now there is one more path to walk…

Welcome to For the Queen, a storytelling game of political machinations, dark history, and undying love. Put on your travelling boots, sharpen your sword, and keep an eye out for skulking figures in the night as you follow your liege on a fateful journey to broker peace.

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The Independents: Dust Bowl Galaxy

You are in a tin can with half a dozen other scoundrels and there is literally nothing outside for light years. You are tumbling through a bitter galaxy that used to have a lot more people. You are going where many others have gone before. The trick is surviving to come back. You are looking for a new rock for your people to call home. And once you find it, the refugees can leave their overcrowded slums to become settlers so you get rich doing the right thing – just this once. On an unrelated note, you are not pirates. “Not in this port, officer.” Such is the world of a space western game with quick-shooting dice, details in the cards, and a wrecked and dangerous universe to rediscover: Dust Bowl Galaxy by Ilya Bossov and Lagging Dice LLC! Continue reading The Independents: Dust Bowl Galaxy

The Independents: Goblinville Gazette

Here lies Lump, Expert Lamplighter, Goat Rider, and The Iron Gut. He was a good goblin, and a better friend. He once let me borrow his shovel, and was barely even mad when I sold it for mushrooms. It’s unfortunate that he was killed by a gelatinous cube, and even more unfortunate that the cube was then eaten by a giant cave lizard. We bury this lizard mess in remembrance of him. To Lump!

Welcome to Goblinville Gazette, a game of bumbling adventure, shiny loot, and the ever-approaching threat of calamity. If you’ve ever wanted to play as a lovable band of misfit monsters, Goblinville has something special for you. Strap on an eyepatch, grab your rusty knife, and get ready to build the best goblin town that anyone has ever seen—which, to be fair, is a pretty low bar.

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The Independents: Exuviae: Relics of House Dragonfly

You had heard the whispers for a long time: someone up high was on the take, and people who stepped out of line had a habit of vanishing. The town had been a hive of villainy long enough, what was a couple more people on the take…but things got stranger. There was a buzz on the street and strange rumors: people vanishing and returning a bit off, politicians showing up dead and eaten from the inside out. But it was none of your business until she walked in…she had legs for days, just not in the way you thought…and her idea of biting your head off turned a bit too literal for your taste. Before, you might have chalked it up to a bad client, but now…now you’re in too deep and if you’re not careful, you’ll be left as just a shell, a reminder of your former self, an . . . Exuviae.

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The Independents: Ngen Mapu

The world is dying. Three times now Kaykayfilu, the Serpent Fish with a Hundred Feet, has arisen from the depths after growing huge on the energy of destruction, flooding the Land. Each time more reality has vanished forever, never to return. Each time the humans, lacking any kind of supervision, have caused the destruction that brought the flood. The fourth flood may very well be the last. It falls to the ngen, the Masters and Owners of Things and mighty preternatural beings from before the dawn of time, to infiltrate the dreaded cities of mankind. Not to strike the humans down, because that way lies corruption. Instead the ngen must convince the humans to turn aside from the path of destruction, one piece of the world at a time. Save the natural world from humanity (and humanity from itself) in Ngen Mapu, a new Fate World of Adventure of South American urban fantasy from Felipe Real and Evil Hat Productions!

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The Independents: Sangre y Mascaras

I have a confession to make: I never got into professional wrestling. I seem to have completely missed the boat when it came to the days of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and my memories of Dwayne Johnson are all as an actor. So, in that vein, digging into luchador culture is like jumping straight to eight ounces of sweet black-tar heroin. It is with this proverbial drug trip that Sangre y Mascaras, the Powered by the Apocalypse homage to luchador movies, jumps into the action.

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