Category Archives: The Independents

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

Lands of Legends Review – A Thousand Options For Your Game

Adventuring through an old-school-style sandbox setting, or mapping your way through a sprawling hexcrawl? The biggest challenge of playing a game where the characters can go any direction they want is making sure there’s something worth finding in every direction they can possibly go – even more so if the world is functionally boundless. From vast ancient cities consumed by the forest to a monastery of living mummies, from a desert falling into a black hole serving as the hourglass for the world’s life to a barge-bound casino-temple to the god of luck and gambling, there are plenty of options to be found in the Lands of Legends from Axian Spice!

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The Independents: Dreampunk

Role-playing games can be a perfect venue for the surreal. Exploring a strange world that has its own incomprehensible rules is often better done in games, where players have the opportunity to poke, prod, and learn, rather than being stuck in an author’s or director’s interpretation. That said, most games that embrace surreality these days embrace a designer’s vision, and are still one possible experience in a world that could be a whole lot weirder. Enter Dreampunk, a game currently being funded on Kickstarter. Dreampunk is a game that borrows heavily from the mechanics of Belonging Outside Belonging and, by extension, Powered by the Apocalypse. What makes Dreampunk unique, though, is the use of card drawing mechanics not only to pace the game, but to develop the very reality of the setting.

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Cuticorium Review – Microcosmic Insect Adventures

You are a bug. There is little time to comprehend what this means to you. Life is brutally short and brief, full of amazing colors and creatures that will dazzle, trap, and kill you in an instant. The ground shakes, your world turns upside down, and everything begins to spin. But there is one place of solace for you in the constant flux of chaos, the peaceful Cuticorium. No insect remembers where it came from, but the longer you stay around this place, the more you begin to think for yourself instead of just trying to survive from moment to moment.” This is the RPG about a small insectoid world with big secrets and dramatic connections, Cuticorium by Ulysses Duckler!

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LUMEN Review – An SRD For The Quick And Powerful

Sometimes you just want a game where the characters are just awesome. So powerful that death is just a speed bump, so badass that there’s almost nothing they can’t do if they play to their strengths, so deadly that enemies aren’t just opponents, they’re walking health and ammo packs. If this is sounding like a couple of video games you know, you’re not wrong, but this is still a tabletop roleplaying game article. Instead of talking about a singular game, though, today I’m looking at a system used to build them, the LUMEN SRD from Spencer Campbell!

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Hard Wired Island Review – Hard Luck Cyberpunks at Lagrange 5

“In the distant future of 2020, humanity has spread to space. A meteorite struck Earth’s northern hemisphere in 1996. The Impact caused widespread environmental damage that humanity has yet to fully recover from, but it supercharged public interest in space exploration. Around the world, new political unions began pouring money into space programs. The result is Grand Cross, an O’Neill cylinder in the Earth–Moon L5 point. It’s Earth’s gateway to the stars, a launching point for missions to Mars and beyond, and a beacon of hope for its people — but it’s in crisis.

An alliance of space-based corporations known as the Offworld Cartel has moved in. While they sell space exploration as a shared dream they strive for along with everyone else, their true aim is control of Grand Cross and, through it, the future of space settlement. As their influence spreads, so does inequality and crime. The Cartel has convinced the current government to privatize many of the systems that keep Grand Cross running, and the station is slowly falling apart. Behind the scenes, they have even more underhanded schemes running in secret. If the next election favors the Cartel, they’ll be on their way to becoming the landlords of human space.”

This is the retrofuture cyberpunk game of people fighting the unchecked greed of corporations, technocrats, and worse to save their orbital communities, Hard Wired Island by Paul “Ettin” Matijevic and Freyja Katra Erlingsdóttir!

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Paris Gondo Review – The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying

PARIS GONDO read heroic stories from the age of 5, and loved the order and beauty of equipment described in them. From the age of 15, they studied inventorying. Paris started tidying in their own cell and moved onto those of fellow anchorites. Now, Paris lives in the Monastery of St. Eyvān, helping adventurers transform encumbered loads into packs of beauty, peace, and inspiration. Using the six steps of the play-based GonParis Method you too, oh over-encumbered and despondent adventurer, may finally find your equipment sparking joy instead of weighing you down. This is the roleplaying game where encumbrance is everything, Kalum’s Paris Gondo: The Life-Saving Magic of Inventorying!

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Gravity RIP Review: Pro-Racing, Anti-Gravity

About five hundred years ago the galactic community of alien species known as the Myriad had known harmony for 80,000 years, and had no use for violence and no concept of capitalism. Then the humans showed up, and it turned out everyone liked the taste of both. Now that galactic society is more of a chaotic, disparate sprawl the only thing anyone can agree on is a love for humankind’s third gift: the anti-gravity RIP Drive, and the ability to stuff these interstellar engines into much smaller craft for use in planet-bound, high speed death races. This isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a deathstyle, baby: it’s Luke Westaway’s sci-fi racing RPG, Gravity RIP!

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Wanderhome Review

There are certain things one takes for granted in a role-playing game. I’m not talking about anything as concrete as attributes or skills or levels, I’m talking about exogenous conflict, which is so omnipresent in traditional RPGs (and most non-traditional RPGs as well) that it’s invisible. Well of course there are monsters to fight. Well of course you need to define a ‘need’ in Fiasco. Well of course there’s scarcity in your apocalypse. Like many people I took this for granted until I saw a game that completely stepped away from it. No, the war is over, no one fights. No, people are inherently good, there are no monsters. No, you will have hospitality in every place you visit. When I first read Wanderhome, this twisted my mind a little. How does one play a game with so little conflict? And then I created a character. And then I immediately got it.

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Over Arms Review

Every so often, I look at a game, and make an impulse purchase sight unseen. Sometimes it’s a follow up to a campaign that I have previously waxed eloquent about, others it is a supplement to a system that opens up rules for something I had envisioned, or has a high concept that is so unique that I can’t help but look. Other times, it is because it promises the ability to play in fictional works I love so much that I can’t help but churn out a cry of “Shut Up and Take My Money!” It’s the last of these that triggered an irresistible pull to Rookie Jet’s Over Arms

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Possible Worlds Kickstarter Review: An RPG Subscription Box

A light-hearted romance emulating dating sim video games/visual novels. Letter writing inspired by Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing. A bond between a pilot and their AI-linked mech. A theatre performance covering up a heist. Building super-powered characters and settings. Trying to find unused wishes in a world where everyone gets three, and you’ve already used yours. Sounds like an RPG anthology, right? Not quite. These are the six games, the six Possible Worlds, featured in Tyler Crumrine’s RPG subscription box.

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