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.
Welcome back to the Bargain Bin! This hobby might often be a financially demanding one, and with the almost infinitely-headed hydra known as ZineQuest on the loose again this month that’s even more true than usual, so I thought it might be nice to have a reminder that you can find good games at bargain prices. When the price is Pay What You Want, you can check the game out for free before spending anything! This time out you will cross the galaxy, taking on the battles that no one else can fight. You will face ruthless aliens, explore desolated worlds and perform terrible deeds just to give humankind one more day before extinction. You will overcome these challenges by the might of your arm and soul… or you will face a destiny worse than death. Not as individuals, no, but as legions of elite warriors. This is Space Knights, written by Gabriel Ciprés!
The journal of a lone lighthouse keeper, their compatriots having vanished as a storm rages all around the island. The Dwarves of the Renidar Mountain Ranges, with all of their unique deities and cultural foibles. A project manager with little hope of success, filling out Status Reports and desperately trying to keep their job. As we continue to close in on the end of the year we also continue to check out the Ind of the Year . . . Bundle of twenty-five different indie games from around the world!
Immortal beings returning to a home long left behind, discovering what’s remained and what’s changed. Treason and death on a long march to safety. A curse, a tree, and the pages of a journal documenting the whole self-inflicted tragedy. Extreme tactical joy-giving (’tis the season, after all). It’s time to cap off 2020 by taking a look at a wide variety of indie tabletop roleplaying games – each of which you could enjoy on their own, sure, but until the end of the year you can get 25 games in the Ind of the Year Bundle!
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.
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.
In a world of dazzling magic, airships, and gunpowder, the Empire forged in conquest and slavery stretches sea to sea. But the core of its heart is rotten, and a revolution is brewing in the underbelly of its floating capital. How many rebels does it take to bring the whole House Huffington down? Time to draw some cards, recall some memories, and swash some buckles as we swing into action with Dashing Scoundrels, a “high-heavens, gunpowder and airships world of dazzling magic where players are rebels and pirates undermining a corrupt empire by performing heists and swashbuckling shenanigans,” brought to us by Ilya Bossov and Lagging Dice LLC!
Right now, brave protesters across the world are standing up and fighting for the rights of the far too often overlooked Black community, campaigning to dismantle white supremacy and ending the authoritarian reign of police brutality. And we here at Cannibal Halfling have nothing other than complete and utter respect and support for these brave protesters. And many others are stepping up to help support these courageous fighters. In particular, today we are going to talk about the Itch Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality.
Clocking in at currently over 1000 games (it started with 700+), this bundle can be yours for a five dollar purchase. Of which all proceeds go towards NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund, split evenly. As of this writing, it sits at an amazing
$2.8 $3 million accrued so far.
This an amazing bundle of games that has a commercial value of over $3000, all for $5. Some of these games alone are worth five times as much as the bundle by themselves. But, the amount of phenomenal products you get for your donation can be overwhelming to sort through. So, these series of Spotlight articles hope to help sort through and show which ones would stand out the most to your interests. And while you’re buying it, consider buying some as a gift to your friends. Or paying above the minimum.
Cos it’s damn sure worth it for the cause.
At the end of 2018, The Gauntlet released “Dark 2”, the December issue of their zine Codex. Within that volume was a game by Jesse Ross called Trophy. Trophy was based on Cthulhu Dark by Graham Walmsley, adapted with the dice mechanic from Blades in the Dark. But listing out a series of games which were hacked down the road into Trophy doesn’t give the game quite enough credit. Trophy is, like the best games coming out of the OSR, a reflection and deconstruction of the dungeoneering/ adventuring trope. In Trophy, the adventurers are treasure hunters, following in the footsteps of so many games that came before. In Trophy Dark they are doomed, and their doom comes through a sequence of narrative steps, or rings. In Trophy Gold they are bound by their own debts, and must keep going deeper until they can pay what they owe.
Math wizards, monkeymongers, and lawyers with swords—the citizenry of the Crystal Spheres come in all shapes and sizes. Last year Aaron dove into the deep end of a fever dream and reviewed Troika, “a science-fantasy RPG in which players travel by eldritch portal, non-euclidean labyrinth, and golden-sailed barge between the uncountable crystal spheres strung delicately across the hump-backed sky.” Troika has long held the title of one of the strangest and most flavor-drenched pieces of RPG media around: with the amount of esoteric lore attached to each character, item, and spell, you might as well be playing Dark Souls on acid. Can the world handle another dose of uncut whimsy? What more could you even want from the Other World’s Favorite RPG?