“Mayday, mayday, this is Warden One. My mecha has taken damage, and I am adrift. Systems are failing. Anyone on this frequency, please respond.
Fantasy RPGs borrow heavily from myth. The superstructure of character advancement in D&D has always intended to emulate character growth from humble beginnings to nearly godlike heroism. Where D&D takes this broad structure and uses it for its own unique version of fantasy, Agon goes back to the source. Agon is an RPG of mythic heroes, seeking to emulate epic poems of Ancient Greek heroes and their exploits. Where a game like D&D guides the action and the narrative in broad strokes, Agon uses a more structured set of procedures to play through the trials faced by the characters. Designers John Harper and Sean Nittner seek to provide a specific structure by which players address challenges, see the consequences, and grow in relation to their world. The result is something evocative and easy to play, but which may frustrate players used to the more open-ended approach of D&D and other older, more traditional RPGs.
As I’ve wandered into the Indie Frontiers this past year, I’ve heard tales of a fabled place where indie RPG designers gather from across the land: Big Bad Con. This yearly tabletop and LARP convention is hosted in Walnut Creek, CA, a short seven hour drive from my home in Los Angeles. I had never been to an RPG convention before, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. I left LA with a backpack full of dice and a mission—a mission to interview as many up-and-coming indie RPG designers as I could find.
Today’s interviewees: JR Goldberg, Viditya Voleti, Riley Rethal, Dee Pennyway, and Kurt Potts.
Welcome to Indie Frontiers, the new article series spotlighting up-and-coming Indie RPG designers and their games. This is the place where we will explore the cutting-edge of game design; the place where we fearlessly read the most experimental RPG’s you can find! Join me on my Sisyphean quest to read all the games emerging on itch.io, and become a part of the Indie RPG revolution.
Today we will be looking at four designers: Jared Sinclair, Jay Dragon, Riley Hopkins, and Kienna Shaw. Let’s get started.
You had heard the whispers for a long time: someone up high was on the take, and people who stepped out of line had a habit of vanishing. The town had been a hive of villainy long enough, what was a couple more people on the take…but things got stranger. There was a buzz on the street and strange rumors: people vanishing and returning a bit off, politicians showing up dead and eaten from the inside out. But it was none of your business until she walked in…she had legs for days, just not in the way you thought…and her idea of biting your head off turned a bit too literal for your taste. Before, you might have chalked it up to a bad client, but now…now you’re in too deep and if you’re not careful, you’ll be left as just a shell, a reminder of your former self, an . . . Exuviae.
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
Ah, Fiasco. While not one of the first narrative games or one of the most unique, Fiasco captured the hearts of players because it accomplishes what it sets out to do so well. A game of characters with powerful ambition and poor impulse control, Fiasco takes the recipe set out by its predecessors like Primetime Adventures and distills it to one zany formula, bearing more than a passing resemblance to a Coen Brothers movie. Requiring only a few six-sided dice and one key decision point, Fiasco is a sweet and simple narrative game that can do no wrong.
How did the children from Narnia cope with adulthood? How does a dystopian society rise, and how does it fall? What happens in your village when the heroes are away? What would you sacrifice to save your family? Who protects your home when you’re not looking? What’s it like to voyage into a black hole? What do heroes talk about on the eve of a decisive battle? Seven questions need seven answers, and seven story games provide them. This time out The Independents are going to be exploring a wide range of themes, settings, characters, and framing devices as we check out the story roleplaying game anthology Seven Wonders from Pelgrane Press!