a kaleidoscopic rogue-like dungeon crawl analogue rpg zine

goal: $500 / ends: saturday, march 14, 2020 8:26a pst. / created by riverhouse games

i didn’t anticipate backing more zinequest projects into march, but i finally looked into THE TREASURE AT THE END OF THIS DUNGEON and couldn’t resist. from a specifically queer/lgbt+ studio, riverhouse games, we have a kaleidoscopic, rogue-like, gm-less, dungeon-crawl rpg.

the base game features a variety of room types, each with their own ruleset, and 4 asymmetrical character archetypes: the mage, the the muscle, the thief, and the healer (there are stretch goals for additional classes that sound awesome, like the goblin and the saint). characters, called selves, will die, constantly, and evolve, while the dungeon morphs as well. each death of the self results in profound changes to the ruleset. for example, when the mage dies, they lose the ability to cast one of their spells, permanently, but return from death with the arcane ability to combine any two of their remaining spells into a more powerful one. with another death, another spell is lost forever, but now you’ll have the power to combine three spells into one; and so on.

the rooms, similarly, fractal as they are entered and changed. elements in each room are highlighted (such as sharp rocks, blunt sword, claws, a glimmer of hope, or subterfuge) and must be engaged in order to escape; each entry into the room highlights yet another element, and requires engaging more and more components in the narrative.

the game is finished, but the stretch goals grow the game in exciting ways. at each milestone, a new artist is brought on to design a room and a character archetype, kaleidoscoping the dungeon more and more.

i love how endlessly hackable this game will be, not only for the designer but for us, as players. writing a new character or room is an experiment in themes, narration, and flavor. this is what roleplaying games are designed to illicit. this is on my shortlist of games around which i will build a play rotation at my local game shop: easy to pick up, easy to drop in and out, but with the power to spark conversation and critical ideas.

it’s already funded, and hit several artist stretch goals, but here’s to hitting them all!

five portable euro-styled games that can be played solo or with others in 20 minutes.

goal: $33,483 / ends: friday, march 13, 2020 2:59p pst. / created by thundergryph games

thundergryph’s THE MATCHBOX COLLECTION brings together 5 small, quick euro-style games in one kickstarter project: 15 DAYS, EIYO, GOLEMS, SPACE LUNCH, and REBIS.

each game is brought to life by italian designers and the illustrators from thundergryph’s team, and the collection has great cohesion. all of the games can be played solo or 2-player in about 20 minutes, and the boxes are literally matchbox size so they’re easily carried. there’s even a travel case for all 5 available.

a quick breakdown of each game: in 15 DAYS, you’re collecting animal pawns for special abilities and completing sets of season cards to put the sun back into sync and bring order back to the natural world. EIYO casts you as a samurai strategically managing your weapons against hordes of enemies, while earning honour points toward victory. REBIS allows for up to 4 players; it’s a game of alchemy and transmutation. SPACE LUNCH is a food-based set-collecting, where your favorite sci-fantasy dishes will provide points if you can grab them up before your opponent. lastly, GOLEMS offers card collection with the variation that every card can be played in 2 ways.

the kickstarter itself is very well put together. there are rules and overview videos available for all of the games, incredibly detailed timelines for delivery and fulfillment, a history of successful projects (this is their 7th kickstarter), and really cool, totally viable stretch goals.

they’ve already funded by more than 300%, and the total is constantly rising!

a simple yet addictive card game of deception and strategy

goal: $9,000 / ends: thursday, april 2, 2020 8:58a pst. / created by sina yeganeh

here we have a game about royal assassinations, where cards are played on each other progressively higher, with special abilities for different cards and some ways to reset the count when cornered. it sounds like it will play out similarly to hugo kawamata’s/button shy’s HIERARCHY, but for up to 4 players instead of 1-2. there are some similarities in art style, color choice, and rules that suggest perhaps this game has drawn heavily on the latter. judged on its own, the game has fantastic art.

i’m curious about THE IMPOSTER KINGS but feel that the kickstarter could be polished up quite a bit. the subtitle of the game, THE NERSETTI ARCHIVES, feels tacked on needlessly; i believe subtitles rarely add value unless they’re in pre-established intellectual properties or canon. to make it worse, while nersetti is the name of the setting, the word “archive” doesn’t even appear anywhere else in the project.

there’s a lot of flavor text that honestly adds little, other than to justify that the game can be played out in a best-of-7 scenario, and feels like it could have used some editing down. i don’t imagine the text will play much part in the game itself, so it probably won’t matter anyway.

they also make the mistake of stating that there aren’t many risks to the project, which is never true. take this project with a grain of salt. it’s brought in a lot of money very quickly, which i attribute to the beautiful art and straight-forward rules, so i’m sure it will fund. there’s enough proof of concept that i’m also sure it will be produced, but i wouldn’t hold my breath on it fulfilling by the projected date. that’s okay though, this is their first kickstarter project and there are always lessons to be learned.

a small rpg, in a zine format. intelligent rodents in a post-apocalyptic fantasy, using an easy to understand system of mechanics.

goal: $800 / ends: friday, march 13, 2020 7:00p pst. / created by jonathan young

games featuring animals post-humanity are a big favorite of mine. i really prefer animals to people, almost all of the time.

self-described as SECRETS OF NIMH meets MOUSE GUARD, two settings i absolutely adore, CRAWLSPACE is a zine of medieval-level rodents trying to survive in the abandoned homes of human civilization, avoiding the predators of the outside world. the game differentiates species into archetypes such as gerbil newsrunners, hamster tunesingers, and rat foodsniffers. it’s an original osr-inspired system called MOTLEY, featuring a game master, tactical combat, maneuvers, dice pools, hidden rolls, simultaneous resolution. there isn’t enough information posted to know much about the rest of the game’s structure, but the creator intends to grow the system and use it in future games, so i’ll keep a watch out for development and mechanics as they go.

it’s a first project for the creator, and while i love what i see, there’s a lot of small mistakes made here that could really hinder their chance at success. first off, there’s no web or social media presence that i can find, which puts them at a huge disadvantage. even with a low goal, it’ll be a challenge to fund, especially since they didn’t launch until march. there’s also very little information on the team/collaborators, other than a couple art assets, so it’s impossible to predict what direction the creative process will take. nonetheless, zinequest is great for new designers to figure out that they even need to answer these questions in the first place!

i meant to recap february yesterday, but i ended up getting sick, and didn’t quite have the energy for this post!

zinequest2 is technically over, meaning no new projects with that tag can launch, though there are still active projects in the campaign. i’m still hammering out how i’d like recaps to look, as i’m not particularly excited by simply listing out everything that’s finished, so i think i’m just going to post some highlights from the month’s experiences!

our game, THE VIOLET SANCTION launched, ran, and funded, about which i am incredibly excited, proud, and grateful! i’m now moving into the next phases of development and printing, and getting the prologue chapter of our first game into player’s hands!

zinequest had an incredibly high success rate (it looks like around 90%, final numbers to be tabulated later). there were still some projects that didn’t quite make it, but that’s okay! kickstarter, and this campaign in general, are meant as a launching pad, and they take a lot of work. i’m happy with how far my project came, but with more preparation i could have gone even further. i’d like to showcase a couple of zines that didn’t quite make it but are still worth watching out for:

CASSETTE TAPE RIOT: with 48 backers, i’d still call this a success. it’s a great basis for a project that was always going to be episodic, and the creator said they’ll still be publishing the pdf of the zine. i’ll be keeping an eye out and playing when it releases!

THE OLLUSTRIA FIELD GUIDES: even though they’re funded, they have 7 days left to hit their last stretch goal, which will add another guidebook to the project (up to 4 total zines!). it’s a parent-child duo with amazing hand-drawn, water-colored art, and i’d love for it to receive as much support as i feel it pours out.

KINGDOMS: a game of preparing and inspiring the following generation to do better than the last, in a dark, devastating setting. they’re almost to a stretch goal that will add equipment cards; a bit more and they’ll add an expansion as well!

DARK PATH: weird interactive fiction; it’s experimental, charming, osr, and features a great cover. it’s almost funded but only has 3 days left, so tell your friends! only $7 gets you a physical copy, one of the lowest price points for a printed zinequest2 game!

in other media, for march kickstarter is hosting another themed campaign, LONG STORY SHORT: a call for short film projects. this isn’t by any means my wheelhouse, but it’s a great opportunity to expand my horizons, meet new people, support small artists, and discover some exciting new videography.

entering LONG STORY SHORT is as simple as launching a short film project on kickstarter during the month of march.

a tabletop rpg zine, for zinequest 2, where you play as a gang of animals stealing food and garbage from humans in a small town.

goal: $3,000 / ends: saturday, march 14, 2020 12:47p pst. / created by david cox & team

here we have a game of animals heisting food to survive. you build a gang of critters and then raid trash cans, fridges, stores, even farmer’s markets, in a small setting they’ve designed for BLADES IN THE DARK. luckily the base game is available free; i’ll have to go check it out myself.

the cover of the zine is wonderful. it certainly references FANTASTIC MR FOX in style, and the spotlight-yellow contrast really brings the heist aspect to the foreground. clever layouting on the cover always entices me to want to peak inside – ignore what anyone has ever told you about not judging a book by its cover. why else would they have them?

the project has a ton of collaborators, including nonbinary and queer artists, which is really great to see. the creator has chosen to use stretch funding as a way of paying for more art from these wonderful people, which is a great way to support the team and show that your business cares about people over profits.

funding expectation: half way there, i’m sure it’ll fund!

the compact storytelling rpg that lets everyone play god and gamemaster, as you create a world and fill it with myths.

goal: $1,978 / ends: tuesday, march 10, 2020 12:01a pst. / created by sirly whirly

with blues and yellow-creams, and a surreal, whimsical, child-like art style, INCARNIS evokes a sense of magic and fantasy. the images almost remind me of the first set of covers for HARRY POTTER, with each set of icons clearly symbolizing a much greater piece of the whole than immediately expressed. the writing and lore is polished, poetic, thematic, and draws me further in to the minds of the creators.

the game alternates between multiple stages: the realm of the gods and the realm of the mortals. on the pantheon level, players collaborate without a referee or dice mechanics to meet the needs of their individual gods (with great examples given); when the gods cannot reconcile their differences on this plane, play moves to the next. the gods build a adventure that encompasses the situation at hand, with the petitioning god creating a daring quest and the denying god gamemastering the scenario.

i really love the way the spotlight can shift between everyone so fluidly, allowing for everyone to be both player and gamemaster based on connections and drama within the shared imagination. it’s a cool project experimenting with a lot of mechanics that i want to see played out at the table!

funding expectation: i just discovered this one today; it is, of course, funded!

a tabletop rpg Of desperate survival & martial combat

goal: $773 / ends: thursday, march 12, 2020 10:24a pst. / created by harry sprinks

Project image for Fabled Dead - Zine Quest 2!

a hex-crawling, post-apocalyptic, d6 roleplaying game. the system utilizes traits, which allows players to customize a dice pool, fighting styles, and fabled masks as core aspects of character creation and evolution. the masks are hunted from alien beasts of another realm, and with their use comes a cost to sanity. i don’t play too many games with a sanity component, but i’m intrigued by the way this game is playing with it.

the lore of the world is grim, ghastly, otherworldly, and anarchistic. there are social and political statements made in the project’s text that surely will be mirrored and expanded upon within the game itself, and i’m looking forward to learning from them.

the two stretch goals add more art and an full adventure add-on, which i’d like to see hit.

funding expectation: running so close to the end of zinequest, this one is starting off slow, but i’m optimistic!

lead your civilization, birth heirs, slay the beasts, and over generations, conquer this sunless world.

goal: $750 / ends: friday, march 27, 2020 2:42p pst. / created by sophia tinney

Project image for Kingdom: a Zine of Generational Proportions

well, it’s been a long month of backing, and while i’ve kept my pledges to a low, this game is simply too good to pass up at the full physical level.

KINGDOM is a dark, generational roleplaying game, with inspirations such as DARK SOULS and MONSTER HUNTER, and i’d dare say a bit of KINGDOM DEATH: MONSTER. players take control of an entire generation each session, creating, inventing, fighting monsters, building new weapons, and eventually breeding and dying to make way for the next generation and game session. i really like generational games, as it shifts the emotional investment from the characters to the world, from the microcosmic to the macro.

i love the sketchy, unpretentious quality of the artwork, the stylization of the text and layouts, the maps of the game world. i’m already looking forward to putting together a group specifically for this game.

funding expectation: i’m sure this will fund, but with any luck they’ll hit some of their higher level stretch goals!