Category Archives: The Independents

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

Back Again from the Broken Land Review – Small Heroes, Heavy Burdens, and Stories

You are small people who walked into a big war. The Doomslord’s forces were gathered in the Broken Land, and your fellowship unexpectedly played a key role in the Doomslord’s fall. Now, laden with stories to tell and burdens to bear, you set off on the journey home. But the Doomslord’s Hunters are still out there, and it’s a long way to walk. Let’s see if you can make it Back Again from the Broken Land with a storytelling game of small adventurers and a journey home from Cloven Pine Games!

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I Have The High Ground Review – Dueling Wits and Flourished Capes

You might be knights or fencers with your blades crossed for sport or mortal combat. But what if you were hackers vying for control of a contested server? A murderer and the aggrieved loved one avenging their victim? What if you’re assassins and ex-girlfriends, or in a boxing match, or a bar fight, or even just a school talent show? So, who will you be? What will you do? There’s only one way to find out. Pick your weapons, push the limits, flourish your capes whenever justifiable, and play through a session of I Have The High Ground from Jess Levine!

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Alchemistresses Advance Review

One of my favorite things about the RPG hobby is that there’s a game for everything. Games which aim for very specific genres, designed by fans of those specific genres, are often incredible showcases of creativity and windows into the love that the designers have for their subjects. Recently, I had a chance to look at one such game, a window into the Magical Girl genre of anime called Alchemistresses. Alchemistresses casts players as high schoolers who begin to discover their link to a former life as a Mistress of one of the Five Elements (though here Mistress, like Magical Girl, is a job description, not a gender). As your campaign progresses through a season of your show, you must balance slice-of-life high school antics with your past life and the villains you must now face. Right now, though, the designers are embarking on a different sort of campaign: Alchemistresses is funding on Kickstarter.

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Good Strong Hands Review

I have to admit, fantasy games come to the plate with two strikes for me. The ubiquity of Dungeons and Dragons, coupled with the large number of single-game players, means that fantasy games generally need to work twice as hard to do something interesting within the existing constraints of the genre. When I first read Good Strong Hands, I saw a game that leaned hard into a very broad, often repeated conceit: A great evil is corrupting the land and you, the heroes, must stop it. Couple this with light, fairly basic mechanics, and I didn’t really know if I was going to find anything interesting in this game.

Luckily, I was wrong. While Good Strong Hands is a rules-light game, and while it absolutely leans on a simplified view of good and evil, it takes this basic struggle and makes it the centerpiece of the game. The mechanics of the Void, Shadow and Corruption, force players to make tough decisions and place the voice of evil with the GM to play with as they wish. The game does want to see its players triumph, but the risk of falling to the Void is very real and a party will likely see at least one character lost to evil in a campaign.

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Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast Review

“Once upon a time, the world was cruel, and there was a witch who knew it well. And so, she sold her heart away and built a house in the woods where the world could never find her.

At first she would let no one into her fortress. But in the long march of days, a strange thing happened: in her own cold and spiteful way, the witch made a friend… and then another… and then several more, until her house was teeming with colorful faces and complicated lives.

The house would come to be known as Yazeba’s Bed & Breakfast, and it would last for a very long time.”

Of course, it’s not just a bed and breakfast – it’s a book, and a game, from Possum Creek Games, currently funding on indiegogo! Let’s see if there’s any free rooms (the sign says yes, but there’s a girl sleeping in the laundry room…) and talk to the creators!

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Warpland: Anathematic Science and Dawning Magick

The chaos that followed the War has never been properly described by any poet or scribe. There are vague accounts of mountains falling and the ground opening up like a mouth to swallow entire cities. We support our reason on the natural order of things, and this order was disrupted when the very fabric of reality was torn apart. Neither side would ever claim victory. From all this suffering and devastation, the Void grew like a blister until it burst, infecting reality like a disease, stretching its tendrils of darkness across the ruined northern territories, corrupting it all with its nothingness.

As the bewildered Demiurge contemplated how his once proud work crumbled, a solemn silence fell, and then—rising in a crescendo from beyond the limits of possibility—a boundless, terrible wail was felt by all things living and not, shaking the very pillars of creation; and just before retreating forever to unknown sidereal regions, His cosmic finger signaled the broken realm.

Once again, Man was allowed to be. Welcome to Warpland.

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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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