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.Continue reading The Independents: Dreampunk
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.Continue reading Wanderhome 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.
When I stopped updating our first spotlight for Itch.io’s Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality it had slightly more than 1,000 video and tabletop games and had raised about $3 million to be split between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund. As I write this, less than a week later, the Bundle consists of 1704 items and has raised more than $7 million. That is, frankly, a staggering effort that shows what a community – one that often exists on the edges of its respective industries and has a larger percentage of marginalized creators – can do when rallied to a good cause. Millionaires and corporations have sacrificed and given less, and we’d be wise to keep that in mind.
Still, the actual contents of the Bundle is still staggering by itself, and after picking Chalice, For the Honor, and Dragonhearts out of the haystack Maria was good enough to point me towards two more that will be worth your time to check out – whether they’re currently sitting on your dragon’s-hoard-sized bundle of charity or you need one last incentive to pitch in as the Bundle winds down.