We are truly in the golden age of RPGs (never mind board and card games, which are having their own renaissance). Since I joined Kickstarter in 2011, the RPG market has fully grasped and exploited the crowdfunding platform, resulting in millions of dollars in funded table-top RPGs. One just needs to look at the recent success of Invisible Sun by Monte Cook to see that not only are RPGs thriving on Kickstarter, but they’re now trying new things and breaking down traditional game mechanics.
However, all these amazing games present something of a problem (a problem which, strangely, Invisible Sun tries to fix). Basically, there are too many games to play. Let’s leave the still growing popularity of D&D off the table for the moment and just look at everything else. Actually, let’s just look at those games that I have backed in the past few years, forgetting all the good materials that are still available after decades.
These are the non-Cthulhu based RPGs that I have backed on Kickstarter, some of which are systems and some just campaign settings. I’ve got a hankering to run each of these for a particular reason:
- TimeWatch RPG and Behind Enemy Times Campaign — I’ve always loved time travel, and the first RPG I ever wrote was a time travel variation on Gamma World. Kevin Kulp and team wrote extensive materials for this Gumshoe-based system, and I can’t wait to try it out. What’s more, The Book of Changing Years is an amazing in-game resource that posits an anonymous author writing a “official” timeline as a background for the campaign — fantastic and hilarious book.
- Dracula Dossier Campaign (for Night’s Black Agents) — Pelgrane took its “vampires versus Jason-Bourne” premise for Nights Black Agents and doubled-down to bring us the Dracula Dossier, yet another in-game resources that bases the whole campaign on the idea that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a highly redacted, factual account of British agents gone bad. The PCs find a marked up copy of Dracula, along with other indicators that something is amiss, and must unravelled the conspyramid before undone themselves. It’s an amazing premis for a game, and the materials (by Ken Hite nonetheless) speak to how Pelgrane seems to keep setting its own bar higher, and then reaching it. Quality game.
- Night Witches RPG — While we’re on the topic of publishers who keep setting and breaking their own records, Bully Pulpip’s game of WWII women fighter pilots is a unique take on a setting that’s seen its share of cliches — a setting that somehow mixes the visceral thrill of using WWI biplanes to drop railroad ties on German Panzers with the drama found in trying to survive back the drama found at living on the airbase during the war. Driven by the Apocolype World engine, Night Witches shows how an RPG can bring perspective and insight to another world, important in so many different ways.
- Numenera — This game kinda started a whole thing on its own, and now that it’s out in the published world with a whole bunch of adventures and supplements really speaks to how well Monte Cook understands contemporary RPGs. I was a huge fan of Heavy Metal magazines growing up, and this game world appeals to me greatly. It’s amazing that Cook was able to carve out a whole new unexplored genre to himself. But more importantly is that Cook has used Kickstarter to generate millions of dollars for his company and create his own publishing monster starting from Kickstarter. A great example to my point.
- Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure (for Dungeon Crawl Classics) — Not only are we in our own RPG rennaisance, but the fantasy genre itself has undergone its own revival, where gamers want to look back from the flash of the latest D&D/Pathfinder editions to bring back some of the old school aspects found in the early fantasy games of the 1970s. This revival (called, appropriately, OSR or Old School Revival) aims to expand on the early days of Fantasy RPGs by combining modern publishing and game systems with the orginal influences of D&D. This is how you end up with Hubris, a very weird campaign setting for my favorite OSR game, Dungeon Crawl Classics. Just a perusal through the Hubris Kickstarter page should be enough to show you how weird people like to get with their OSR. I would love to run an ultra-weird, down in the dirt DCC campaign using this setting; like some strange mix of Gamma World and D&D.
- The Complete Roslof Keep Campaign — The other part of the OSR that keeps getting revisited is what’s called the “old school dungeon crawl.” These large scale dungeons were the stuff of legends, and now people are bringing them back in true form. This whole campaign can be used for both 1e and 5e, though I’m sure it could easily be converted to DCC. That I could run this massive dungeon crawl with such beautiful, contemporary design is the sort of opportunity that keeps me up at night. Looks so good.
- Judge’s Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition — Or, if 21st century production values aren’t your thing and you really yearn for an RPG experience straight out of the 70s, you could go straight to the source. Recognizing that they formed the OS in OSR, Judge’s Guild went back and reprinted all their original campaign settings in a restored form. When I discovered D&D in 1980, I would go down to Arthur’s Toy Town where, at the back of the store they kept all their RPG materials. Lacking both the funds and understanding of what I was looking at, I would peruse the shrink-wrapped Judge’s Guild books and just imagine that one day I would have the money and friends and understanding to run these games. Well, I do have the money and friends now, just not the time. The Tegel Manor book on its way and I am sure the 10 year old me will be happy to have it finally in his hands.
So these are just the non-Cthulhu games I have backed and don’t have time to play. Some of them I’ve read, some are still on their way to me. After pretty much gaming Cthulhu only for many years, and totally ignoring the fantasy genre altogether, it would be highly remiss of me as an RPG author to ignore all of these amazing books.
Next up, all the Cthulhu gaming books I don’t have time to play.