SOUTH OF THE BORDERLANDS
In our second issue Brazilian games designer Diogo Nogueira introduced us to the fast rising RPGLATAM scene, a diverse collective of indie games designers, artists, writers, podcasters and more who, taking inspiration from RPGSEA have banded together to help raise awareness of their community.
With the LATAM Breakout Kickstarter, featuring 5 different designers from the community, currently running we wanted to share Diogo's feature online and hopefully help shine a light on this vibrant scene.
We are living in a new golden age for tabletop RPGs. Whilst for many that means Dungeons & Dragons, and let’s be honest right now it has forced its way into popular culture and the public consciousness like never before, we are also experiencing an explosion of creativity and opportunity in the indie scene, and for those willing to look an astonishing number of games to explore.
Importantly in 2021 these games are not just limited to the same old themes, such as European medieval fantasy, space opera, cosmic horror and the like. Neither are they limited to creators from just the USA or Europe. Today, thanks to the internet, creators from all around the world are making themselves known both to each other and beyond their own country’s borders and bringing with them exciting new ideas and new perspectives.
That’s what #RPGLATAM is all about! Inspired by our interactions online with creators from the RPGSEA community we wanted to build our own movement. And so in 2020 we created the hashtag on Twitter and a Discord server as a way to bring us together, make it easier for both us to find each other and the outside world to discover the work of our community.
Whilst at first we were focused on just the Brazilian RPG community we quickly realised that we should bring in all the amazing people involved in tabletop games from all over our region, after all we face many of the same issues, share many of the same goals, and we are always stronger when united and working together.
Roleplaying games have not had the easiest time here, certainly when I was growing up there wasn't much of local scene, with no homegrown games or publishers. Generally speaking if you wanted to play an RPG you either needed to speak English or have friends who could, were into gaming and wanted to teach you how to play.
Even then just getting hold of books was no easy feat. If you were lucky someone might pick up a game on their travels abroad, generally some version of D&D, Runequest or Call of Cthulhu, which would then be photocopied and shared around. Speaking to other gamers from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina I hear the same stories repeated again and again.
Still as access to copies was so limited it drove us to develop our own interpretations of roleplaying games. Initially, as you might expect, they were mostly similar to D&D but eventually they began to evolve into something unique and in 1991 Tagmar, the first published Brazilian RPG. arrived. Whilst it was still a fantasy game with trappings similar to D&D, it had a unique setting and a system that diverged in multiple ways.
At the same time the fantasy genre as a whole was working its way into our popular culture. Whilst we might not have had easy access to the game itself, by one of those strange quirks of fate the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, retitled Cavern of the Dragon, became hugely popular, and indeed still for people over the age of 30 or so. Unsurprisingly one of my own RPGs, Lost in the Fantasy World, was based on the cartoon!
Whilst I can’t say for sure how many people were attracted to the hobby because of the cartoon, mainly as the game and the cartoon had different names here, it does provide a frame of reference. When trying to explain to someone what a typical RPG is, having the cartoon as a cultural touchstone makes things a lot easier, and its influence goes well beyond just tabletop gaming, reaching geekdom as a whole down here.
Today though, whilst traditional fantasy settings are still a major part of the scene, we are very diverse in all aspects of design, themes and the ways in which we approach our work. One thing that does unify us though is the openness of the movement and how everyone is always trying to lift each other up whilst making games more inclusive for everyone. At the same time whilst we speak louder with one voice, within that chorus you’ll find a wide range of unique individuals and I’m proud that so many different styles of play, of settings and aesthetics can stand side by side with each other.
A lot of us are artists and graphic designers as well as writers and I find that there’s a willingness to experiment a lot with our games that has produced some wild results and very modern games with in both their mechanics and their visual style. The openness of the scene, how we collaborate means we learn a lot from each other, we are always exchanging experiences and techniques. You’ll often see someone publish their first game with very basic layout and art and within just a few releases produce something incredibly unique looking.
Still, whilst necessity may be the mother of invention it remains incredibly difficult to access the resources we need to make the kind of bigger and more ambitious releases that many of us dream about. Whilst I know it's not easy for anyone working in the indie RPG scene, wherever they are, it's extra hard when one is excluded from such powerful tools as Kickstarter.
Latin America has always faced economic distress of one sort or another and certainly here in Brazil we’ve had better years. The events of the past eighteen months has compounded this and right now we are facing a major crisis that makes every penny counts, sometimes we just don't have the option to invest as much as we would like on our projects. Recently, thanks to some friends and publishers outside of the region, some of us have managed to sidestep the restrictions and run successful projects on Kickstarter but not everyone has this chance.
Hopefully the RPGLATAM movement will open up more opportunities for us and help to raise awareness worldwide of this beautiful, vibrant scene. We want to make games and art from Latin American creators visible well beyond our borders and to be part of a larger community without having to cut ties to where we came from.
It is a struggle, at home as well as abroad, especially here in Brazil where many local players have tended to disregard regionally produced games in favour of international ones. By being able to stand shoulder to shoulder as equals with our peers in Europe, the United States and around the world we hope to raise Latin American creators profiles and respect at home too.
Already, not even a year after we first started using the RPGLATAM hashtag, we’re seeing that start to take effect, thousands of people worldwide have discovered that our scene exists and the awareness of work has greatly increased. Every day people are discovering new games, new artists, new writers and all kinds of creatives from our region.
Not only that, but more and more creators from Latin America are discovering they can use the hashtag to connect themselves to this movement, discover peers and potential creative partners. I know I have and I am constantly surprised by what these amazing people are making!
So far we have mainly focused on the hashtag and a Discord server to help us stay in touch but that is just the start. Already there's talks about making a podcast, a zine, an online convention, it’s an exciting time. Right now having an actual convention might be hard, as people are so far apart and traveling isn't easy or cheap, especially since the economy across the region is in a bad way, but when we look at what our peers across the Pacific in the RPGSEA community have achieved we can’t help but be inspired.
In turn I hope this has inspired you to take a look at our scene. Right now there's an explosion of creativity right across Latin America, from Mexico right down through to Argentina and Chile from game and graphic designers through to YouTubers, bloggers and so many more creative people there to be discovered. So if you want to know more download the accompanying guide to this feature and if you’re on Twitter just search for the hashtag #RPGLATAM where you’ll find many of us ready to introduce you to a whole new world of tabletop gaming.
LATAM Breakout is funding on Kickstarter now and runs until Tuesday 7th December
This feature originally appeared in Wyrd Science Vol.1 / Issue 2