a ttrpg about psychic cyborgs, identity, and finding yourself through fighting for what you believe in.

goal: $14,000 / ends: monday, april 6, 2020 12:00p pst. / created by ruby measom

a game about fighting for what you believe in, brought to us by a queer designer and team. this is what i live for.

set in a futurist, cyberpunk world, in the war-torn city of mooncore, players take on the roles of ascended: psychically and technologically augmented servants. revolution has ravaged the setting prior to the game beginning, and now there are power vacuums, civil unrest, technological wonders to explore and exploit…

ASCENDANCY is built with the RESISTANCE TOOLKIT, providing a simple mechanical core but the framework to explore complex ideas like “change, identity, and resistance.” character archetypes are built by combining two playbooks, from a selection that include some real treasures: the shadow, able to assume new identities on a whim; the memory, able to shatter their identity by altering their own memories; the data, able to process data and invent spontaneously. the game boasts over 100 moves and advancements, which will likely grow with stretch goals, supplements, player input, hacking!

the city of mooncore sounds rich, enigmatic, and ripe with possibility: on the outskirts, a forest of computers growing over a giant mech; overhead, a floating city of decadence. the now-free citizens of revolution fight for survival, for what they love, for who they are. there are so many allegories of corporate greed, the exploitation of labor, the collateral damage of war. it’s really amazing to see projects like this, tackling important issues through the medium of social/imagination-theater gaming.

from the perspective of the kickstarter itself, it’s the first created by the designer, but it’s put together thoughtfully. there are stretch goals that bring on new contributors, writing and drawing up new character content. there are videos and interviews the discuss the game, its design, and playthrough. they already have ~200 backers, putting them half way to funding. i’m sure we’ll see this game hits its goal and fulfill!

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!

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!

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!

an adventurer’s pocket guide to forgotten lands. #zinequest2

goal: $602 / ends: monday, march 9, 2020 12:57p pst. / created by shane and cassandra neville

what a cool project! it’s a parent/child project, which is really inspiring, and it looks absolutely wonderful.

THE OLLUSTRIA FIELD GUIDES are three zines which unfold into maps of three different lands of the titular world. and wow, they are cool maps. hand-drawn, water colored, risograph printed perfection, to be honest!

i want to say, this is the kind of project i would have been so happy to have made with one of my parents. it’s the kind of support of art and storytelling that is so essential to fostering the imaginative spirit of a child during their formative years, and i’m so glad that they’ve already seen such great success. if you are a parent, i implore you: do something like this with your child. make a game. start a kickstarter. get their art into the world as soon as possible. it is vital. it is empowering. it is how you show them true love.

this project really inspires me to want to give to the next generation. i’ll have to figure out how i’m going to channel these feelings into something soon!

funding expectation: funded!!

a gentle, low-stakes story game by ed turner & ash cheshire about arcane artisans who carefully repair & restore heirloom magic items.

goal: $150 / ends: saturday, march 7, 2020 2:06p pst. / created by ed turner & ash cheshire

Project image for The Magical Repair Shop

a zinequest project by ed turner, who’s other game, PROHIBITIONISTS, i also featured on the blog. joining in the creation of this game is ash cheshire; they’re churning out some really awesome looking content!

THE MAGICAL REPAIR SHOP is a cozy game without combat or monsters. instead, you’re a mage who works at a repair shop fixing broken magical artifacts through a narrative-driven system. there’s also a really clever “puzzle purse” folded-paper style character sheet that i absolutely adore, with amazing art on the outer faces.

i’m really looking forward to a light, relaxing playthrough of this game. it promises an experience that outside of zinequest, i rarely see.

funding expectation: low goal, but already funded nonetheless!