We've spent a few days looking in at part of the RPG design process. After the design is done, though, comes the production. I'm a big fan of the rise of crowdfunding as a way to launch endeavors, and no projects excite me more, of course, than RPGs. There's just something real and satisfying to me about this purest expression of "voting with your dollars." Not only can I show my support for the projects and creators that I enjoy, but I get to be part of the shared experience of fanhood. When I am a consumer, I like to be an enthusiastic one when I can. These are meaningful purchases to me -- not just another doodad, but something I'm genuinely excited about. And not only that, but I get to be a part of the realization of someone else's goal, a part of someone's success. The financial support is important, but as far as that goes, it pretty much amounts to putting in a pre-order. The crowdfunding process, though, the experience of it, also adds a social aspect to the transaction, an aspect of community. Plus it also feels good to be the first on your block with the new hotness. Maybe you even get your name in a book. Below are a few RPGs that are currently funding, as of this posting, roughly in order of amount of time left before the funding campaign closes.
- Puppetland - This is the rebirth of an old John Tynes game that was first released online in 1995. I was fortunate enough to have picked up a copy of the combination Puppetland/Powerkill book (I think from like '99 or 2000?), and I was immediately taken with this bold and strange new approach to role-playing games. Puppetland is maybe the first game I ever encountered that was explicitly geared for short-session play. It also, by game rule, enforced a play style, which was a new one on me; it basically forces you to be in-character while simultaneously being reminded that this is a story being created...like for an audience. I'll admit, the nostalgia factor alone was enough to get me to pledge my support, but throw in a shiny new hardcover and some kick-ass artwork? I'm there. I feel like this is one of those games that was ahead of its time, and possibly overlooked because of it. But nowadays, the indie game revolution has made a lot more room for weird new takes on the hobby to find acceptance, so I'm happy to see Puppetland coming around again. Funding deadline: November 26, 2014.
- Paranoia - Less a rebirth and more of a reboot, this is a new incarnation of the classic game of farcical dystopia. It looks like this new version is getting both a setting and system overhaul. I should point out that I played Second and "Fifth" Edition, but never experienced the XP version. (Though some reports indicate that I'm not missing anything.) The new one so far looks to be going for a more streamlined ruleset with powers, secret societies, equipment, and so forth represented by cards. (Perhaps unsurprising, as the lead designer of the new version is one James Wallis, whom you may know for having designed the gold standard in card-based storytelling games, Once Upon a Time.) The setting changes they've talked about are an attempt to update Alpha Complex to bring it more in line with our modern sensibilities and...well, fears. If you're familiar with the original Paranoia setting, consider some of the big factors of life in Alpha Complex: omnipresent surveillance by an all-seeing, all-knowing artificially intelligent overlord. Now consider how much closer we are to that actually being the world we live in. In any case, regardless of what newfangled games I may or may not be able to convince an old-guard gaming group to try, I have no such concerns about being able to gather enough people who would want to play Paranoia. If not our bread and butter, this was at the very least a satisfying "sometimes" food back in the day. Funding deadline: December 3, 2014.
- The Dracula Dossier - This is a campaign setting book (or books, really) for Night's Black Agents, the monster-hunting superspy thriller game running on the GUMSHOE System. Both Night's Black Agents and The Dracula Dossier are by one Kenneth Hite, whom you may recall I had the pleasure of meeting at Metatopia. The GUMSHOE System is an investigation-focused ruleset by Robin D. Laws, another one of my RPG design heroes. The driving concept behind The Dracula Dossier is that Bram Stoker's Dracula novel was not, in fact, fiction, but a redacted after-action report of the attempt by British Intelligence to recruit a vampire as an intelligence asset. The PCs are monster-hunting secret agents who have come into possession or knowledge of the titular dossier, and it is, effectively, a freeform campaign about hunting down and killing the Dracula. As far as monster-hunting games go, it doesn't get much more epic than that. You don't have to take my word for it, though. The One Shot podcast did a whole series dedicated to the Dossier, with the GM of the game being none other than Kenneth Hite himself (starting with episode 66). Funding deadline: December 3, 2014.
- Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk - This is a game by Graham Bottley, a designer with whom I was not familiar before learning of this game. It's a fantasy game set in the desert, apparently magic-centric, with a D6 system and "group" play where players have multiple characters. I'm thinking like an Ars Magica kind of setup? The words "flexible and freeform magic system" definitely caught my eye, as well, so I'm curious to see what this game and its system will be like. A full and separate setting guide is also promised, so even without knowing many specifics about the game, I think there will be plenty of good material here. Funding deadline: December 9, 2014.
- Silent Legions - This a horror game by Kevin Crawford, the designer behind Stars Without Number. I don't have much to say about this one, as I'm not in particular an OSR guy, and this is explicitly designed in that mode (as was Stars Without Number), but there's certainly a lot to recommend this game. This is billed as a game geared for "sandbox" play, which means instead of a defined setting or metaplot, you get a toolkit with which to engineer your own setting for a campaign, basically one rich with adventure seeds, and you see where the group goes from there. As we know, I'm always interested in worldbuilding toolkits, and though my tastes run more toward collaborative worldbuilding by the group, I still might be interested in checking out what goes into building a Lovecraftian horror sandbox. I haven't decided whether I'm jumping on board this one yet or not; I've been Kickstarting like a Rockefeller recently, so I'm trying to make an effort to pump the brakes a little. But there's time yet. Funding deadline: December 18, 2014.
- Shotguns & Sorcery - As you might guess, this is the RPG adaptation of the "fantasy noir" setting of the Shotgun & Sorcery series of stories by Matt Forbeck. The RPG is being built on the Cypher System, which is the system that drives the (relatively recent) Monte Cook games Numenera and The Strange. If you're already familiar with Numenera, then there's probably not a whole lot new I can tell you. If you're not familiar, then it's likely I'll go into it in another blog post. (In quick summary, task resolution is D20-based against a difficulty number, but with an interesting mechanic where players can spend character points in order to reduce the difficulty, even going so far as to be able to reduce it so much that no roll ends up being required.) This is another one where I'm undecided about jumping on board. I'm not already familiar with the setting, and I'm not, at this point, super-in-love with the Cypher System, but there's time yet on both counts. I may just need a little more exposure to both those things. But if you're a fan of either one and want to check this out, here it is! Funding deadline: January 1, 2015.
And with that, having plugged a project that has a window into next year, I think I can bring this post to a close. Just as an administrative aside, I'm still feeling my way around what I'd like these blog posts (and this blog overall) to be like, so I thank you in advance for your patience while I find my way. Until next time!