Category Archives: The Independents

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

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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The Independents: Heroes All

Superhero stories are at their most interesting when talking about conflicts that aren’t easily knocked down with super-strength or a utility belt of gadgets. The most memorable superheroes across every continuity are those who are both relatable and who must struggle to earn their victories. As our readers have seen with Seamus’s High Impact Heroics Adventure Log, there are newer supers games like Masks which do a great job of emphasizing the human aspects of the superheroic. Cut from a similar cloth is Heroes All, a new game by Brandon Sichling. Heroes All is built around the core conflicts that make or break a superheroic character. By pairing the creation of an antagonist with the player’s protagonist, Heroes All creates an immediate conflict for every player right out of the gate.

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The Independents: The ORPHEUS Protocol

I duck behind a car for a moment, trying to catch my breath. Silencing the voices in my head is no easy feat, but I need a clear mind if I’m going to make it out of this alive. Check my pistol, three shots left. Check my shoulder, clean exit wound. We expected armed guards, we just didn’t expect them to be lead by a rampaging arch-demon. How did these mercenaries even manage to summon that thing?

Welcome to The ORPHEUS Protocol, a game of cult infiltration, mind-numbing monsters, and spy-thriller action. Have the urge to play a coven of monster-exterminating witches? How about a traveling exorcist and his werewolf companion? Maybe a militant team of cyborgs who are also ghost hunters? Buckle your seatbelts eldritch fans, things are about to get weird.

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PAX Independents: … and then we died

Being a ghost is a tough gig, even if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to be hanging around with a bunch of other ghosts. I mean, there you are all definitely deceased but not passing on, and you’ve got no idea how you got there. Passing on to the other side seems like a definite improvement, but you really want to figure out how your life ended first, right? So how does one do that? Well, you and your fellow ghosts will have to tell the story of your demise to one another, plucking fragments of words and memories from the aether and stringing them together. Such is the tale to be told with the storytelling game from Emma Larkins … and then we died. Continue reading PAX Independents: … and then we died

The Independents: Hack the Planet

Forged in the Dark is out of the starting gates. Where Apocalypse World spawned ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ (PbtA), Blades in the Dark spawned Forged in the Dark, a similar moniker to describe new games which hack and adapt the original game’s ruleset. Now, three years after Blades was first available digitally, there are three Forged in the Dark games at various stages of completion: Scum and Villainy, Band of Blades, and Hack the Planet. Of these, Hack the Planet is the second one released and the one I’ve personally been waiting for. Designed by Fraser Simons, best known for his work on PbtA cyberpunk game The Veil, Hack the Planet means its title literally, and takes place in a dark future where climate change has wrought havoc on the planet. Characters are Glitches, those who eschew the protection (and surveillance) of the corporations from the refugee city Shelter 1 and instead try to make their own way, adapting technology, modifying their bodies, and even fighting the weather to do so. Storm-chasing cyberpunk sound interesting? Read on.

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The Independents: Sundown

Life on the road in Sundown is tough; you have to savor rest when you can get it. I’ve been a guest at the Ruelas homestead for the past week. They’ve treated me to hot meals, a bed, and have promised me a bag of coin if I can help them deal with their bird problem. They’re good folk, fond of the Fiendswatch even on a safe day. But today ain’t safe.

Welcome to Sundown, a game for monster hunters, transhumanist revolutionaries, and everyone in between. Get ready to leave our world behind and explore the beautiful and brutal land where still water flows deep and death waits behind every bend.

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The Independents: Snowhaven

“Snowhaven has hosted a theocracy, two civil wars, a magi uprising, been partially burned to the ground, and had one small bout of cannibalism, yet still, she shambles on.” As opening lines to a setting book go, you can do a lot worse. I came across Snowhaven on Kickstarter a while back. The authors described it as “snowpunk”, a new genre they were trying to make stick. The way that the authors described it, they wanted to take the steampunk elements of technology and apply it to a fantasy setting, but also keep the sense of “grim isolation” that winter brings. Rather than having your standard bright, optimistic theme of “gaslamp fantasy”, the people of Snowhaven dwell in a brutally harsh cold water port, filled with intrigue between the noble houses and the Illuminate Church. Technology has not been soaring by leaps and bounds because of a new age of whimsy, discovery and exploration; it has advanced because it is the only way for them to survive (they weren’t kidding about the cannibalism thing).

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The Independents: EABA

The phrase “ahead of its time” is usually hyperbolic, at least a little bit. That said, when you are truly ahead of your time, there are consequences for getting somewhere before everyone else is ready. What made Greg Porter’s Blacksburg Tactical Research Center (BTRC) ahead of its time was moving to PDF-only distribution of their RPGs in 2003, back when PDF was little more than an annoying format you needed that Acrobat Reader thing for. By exiting physical distribution way before everyone else, BTRC made their games pretty hard to find unless you already knew what you were looking for. Fortunately, the rest of the world has caught up…and now the rest of the world can go check out EABA.

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The Independents: Lancer

Things get lonely out here in the Long Rim, especially when you’re laying an ambush for the pirate who almost killed you a month ago. A white hot sun beats down on the black-glass face of my SSC METALMARK, but I’ve dimmed the cockpit displays and cranked the internal temperature controls way down. Gotta stay frosty.

Welcome to Lancer, a game of big robots, big guns, and big personalities. If you’ve ever wanted to fly through space tinkering with the parts of your mech and the hearts of your enemies, Lancer is the game for you. Continue reading The Independents: Lancer

The Independents: Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG

The government has turned corrupt, and what should be serving the people now crushes them under the weight of fear and oppression. Secret police hunt for any kind of dissent, and authoritarian goons stalk the streets looking for heads to crack. Whether in public rallies or in secret meetings, with fists and firepower or words and willpower, revolutionaries fight to realize their ideals and create a better world. But how will they make those ideals come true? What are they willing to do, how far are they ready to go, to overthrow their oppressors and build a future? And even if they ‘win’, will that future be one that’s worth the cost, or will it be another nightmare? That’s the kind of story you’ll be telling if you play Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG by W.M. Akers, currently live on Kickstarter. Continue reading The Independents: Comrades: A Revolutionary RPG