Category Archives: The Independents

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

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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The Independents: Facing The Titan

I’m a fan of games with some heft to them. Rules and procedures are the elements of role-playing games which enable them to generate bigger, more interesting stories than the players could have come up with themselves. Unfortunately, rules-heavy and procedure-heavy games are stuck with a long history of taking up the mechanics of their wargame-based forebears without a great reason to do so. Rules and procedures can be so much more than physics engines and combat mechanics, after all. What if your game built out rules and procedures that were distinctly literary in origin? Imagine that the game not only traces out the course of your story, but also gives you procedures for establishing your own symbolism within the story. It’s quite possible that the game you’re imagining looks a lot like Nicolas ‘Gulix’ Ronvel’s Facing the Titan.

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Disposable Heroes Review – Gig Economy Heroes Dying for a 5-Star Rating

A couple hundred years ago, an event called The Fold sent every living being across every dimension into a sort of nightmare reality. Very Powerful Beings were able to reconstitute themselves eventually, but the world was utterly trashed. Using magic and strange technology, lichs, dragons, demons, angels, capitalists, and other monsters built the sprawling megacity of Neo-Francisco. In one of those lost realities, you might have been the heroes destined to save it. In the neon-sick car crash of technological majesty, fantasy weirdness, dimensional rifts, and incredibly funky music that is NF, however, you’re gig workers working for the delivery app Disposable Heroes. It’s deadly work, but it pays! Sorta. This is the deck-based roleplaying game of long hours, high mortality rates, and blazing neon from Sandy Pug Games!

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Skycrawl Review – Serendipitous Adventures in Strange Skies

In a weird, whimsical, endless sky, villages cling to small rocky spheres lit by sentient suns, brave souls voyage far beyond the reach of gravity toward rootless mountains in far-flung orbits, and strange skybeasts swim wild through vast and distant twilights.

Welcome to the Azure Etern.

Pick your fantasy tabletop roleplaying game of choice, consult your charts, and get ready to explore a universe of infinite skies with Skycrawl from Aaron A. Reed!

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Marvelous Review

Now, we all love a superhero fight. Seeing two monumental figures with fluttering capes dealing blow for blow in titanic might. Blasts of magic and ethereal energy shockwave from the fingertips of villainous casters. The climactic fights between good and evil. But a superhero story cannot survive on acts of superhuman power alone. They cannot go year after year for this decades-spanning industry if it was just Superman beating up Metallo every week. No, what keeps us coming back is Superman’s humanity. The moments where he talks with those of non-high flying identity. How his relationship with Lois Lane develops. We read the comics for the ‘man’ in Superman.

A friend once told me that my greatest strength as a writer was finding the mundane in the fantastical. Well, it is less a strength and more where my passion lies. I adore the scenes in comics of costume-glad crusaders sitting down for some pizza. I don’t care as much for the end to Dr. Destruction’s world-ending threat, as much as how the hero putting themself in such a stressful situation will lead to them developing as a person. It’s about the people who put on the mask for me. Not the mask itself. Today, I have brought a game on to discuss that exemplifies such a thing. A game that makes itself known as character first, superheroes second.

With that said, let’s dive into Marvelous. Continue reading Marvelous Review

Karanduun: Make Gods Bleed Review

Many play fantasy RPGs for escapism. Could even call it power fantasies. A world where things that we could never imagine seeing in reality are as commonplace as rain falling from the sky. Dragons breathing flames. Gods that walk the land as if they were anything else of the world. Relics of grand, divine power. But it’s not just that. In these worlds, the characters we create are important. They’re important in shaping, travelling and influencing the fantastical world around them. It’s not only that they are powerful figures and beings. It’s that what they do matters. That creates an issue, however. What does “actions that matter” mean? Sure, you could slay some grand old Lich and raid their tomb/lair. But what does that mean when you’ve done it a thousand times. Sure, you forge the dragon’s scales into a set of armor. But when you can take an arrow straight through your bare chest and laugh, why do you need the armor other than as a rather intricate piece of jewelry? 

This is the issue of fantasy games. Your characters are strong, yes. They can make big changes, yes. But what does it matter if the world will always have more dragons. Always have more giants. Always have something else for you to fight. Does it really matter if the rules simply don’t account for this rise to prominence within the world itself. This feeling resulted in me feeling a tad burnt out on fantasy RPGs. It began to feel hollow to slay yet another walking skeleton, despite reassuring myself it mattered. I moved towards superhero games such as Masks or more relationship and character based fantasy games, such as Thirsty Sword Lesbians.

However, recently I picked up a new RPG. And reading through it, I discovered something that I had been searching so long for but never found. I discovered a fantasy world where you are powerful, but not for the sake of power. You are powerful to unseat the corrupt and decadent rulers of the world within it. It’s a game where the Bards of the system can sway the masses with rules to accompany it. A game where you can stare down beasts of heaven and hell without blinking, because you know blinking would lead to your own downfall. It’s a game where you’re powerful to make change.

This is Karanduun. And with it, you will make Gods bleed.

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