After, let's just politely say, some shenanigans Kickstarter’s ZineQuest campaign returns for its 4th year and once again we're here to sift through the hundreds of titles you'll be able to throw money at this month and spotlight those that have caught our eye each week. So let's get on with it...
It's fair to say that over the past couple of years time has ebbed and flowed in frankly mysterious ways, this feeling of temporal discombobulation is certainly not helped by Kickstarter's ZineQuest campaign kicking off in August this year instead of its, kind of, traditional February slot.
What with many of the campaigns that would have been planned with ZineQuest in mind having pulled the trigger and ran in the more community driven Zine Month earlier this year instead, it will be interesting to see how this year's campaign pans out, especially with much of the RPG community currently laser-focused on GenCon.
Still, even if it feels like a slightly slower start than usual there's already plenty of great looking titles already funding, from both experienced and first time games designers, as just a cursory look through the listings shows and so, with no thought for the state of our wallets, we've once again rolled up our sleeves will be selecting a half dozen or so titles each week for you to check out...
BIG EYE CHUNGUS
One of the eleven monsters created in the near 50 year history of Dungeons & Dragons to be original enough to be solely the intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast, the big floating cyclopean bastards known as Beholders have been causing grief for PCs since Terry Kuntz invented them back in 1974.
Regularly topping polls of the game’s best beasts has ensured that whilst the official title of ‘Beholder’ remains off limits, these strangely sinister yet goofy murder meatballs have still spread throughout the gaming multiverse under a wide variety of names such as ‘Eye of Terror’, ‘Watcher in the Dark, ‘Oculoid’ and now thanks to Planet X Games quite possibly, the definitive - BIG EYE CHUNGUS.
The eponymous zine then is a field guide to these lovable lumps with around a dozen variants to throw at your players, from the traditional to the robotic, lore to flesh out their backgrounds, tips on getting the most out of these moustache twirling big bads, adventure hooks and everything you might want to charge up your CHUNGUS encounters including some incredible artwork of the big loveable lumps.
Wretched & Alone, Chris Bisette’s Jenga powered solo RPG system, has proven itself to be a pretty decent tool for crafting tense, against the odds games where success is often measured in just how long you survive. The latest game to adopt it is Stuart Watkinson’s Wretched Wasteland which puts you in the shoes of a scout from The Compound, a fragile refuge in the wastes from the ongoing apocalypse.
Facing off against raving cannibals, raging canids and all the other wonderful things that tend to flourish in these kind of dystopian hellscapes, it’s your job to chart the land around your home base and maybe, just maybe, keep your people alive. Or not. I mean, almost certainly not, but as ever with these things it’s the journey that matters, right?
Anyway this new revised and reprinted edition sees the talented Brazilian graphic designer M.A. Guax brought on board to create a new layout so at least those desperate journeys through a hostile, irradiated wasteland will be easier on the eye.
THE BEAST OF BORGENWOLD
Ever since one roared out at me from the cover of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery - The Shamutanti Hills I’ve had a soft spot for manticores, so I was instantly drawn to The Beast of Borgenwold, a new zine for Old School Essentials that pits the players against a necromantically revived taxidermied example.
Having been brought back to a state of unhappy unlife by foolhardy tomb trespassers, the beast is now terrifying the town of Borgenwold as, and I quote as I do like this description, “a being of infinite malice, leaking sawdust, varnished, reeking of chromium salts and embalming fluid”.
As you'd expect it’s up to the PCs to fix this unfortunate situation, retrace their predecessors footsteps into the underworld and retrieve a silver hunting horn that can end the beast's reign of terror.
Filled with suitably old school art this looks like a fine way to spend a few sessions pitting your protagonists against not just the eponymous beast but all kinds of other weirdos, from fishy goblins to toothless drunks.
THE AVERAGE TROOPER: SKELETON MAYHEM
At this point I think it's fair to say that nothing on god's green earth is going to stop indie game designers adding the word -punk to random nouns so we're just going to have to accept this is the world we live in now. With that in mind The Average Trooper bills itself as a 'skeleton-punk' RPG and I'll be honest both looks like lots of fun and for once actually deserving of the -punk suffix.
Whilst it might look like a shoe-in for MORK BORG The Average Trooper actually boasts its own simple one-roll 2D20 system and flips the script as the players take on the role of skeletons whose deathly rest is constantly being disturbed by pesky adventurers.
Take your place amongst the undead ranks of the Necromancer Istvan as a lowly bone boy, make friends with demons and zombies, replace your broken bones with random weird stuff and generally get to experience the other side of dungeon life in this fast and fun RPG from Ukrainian game designer Vitali Demura and artists Daryelazy and Darkwizard.
THE LANDS OF LOOR
The Lands of Loor is a standalone RPG with it's own D6 dice pool system and post-apocalyptic weird fantasy setting where your players can be anything from a boring old human, elf or dwarf to the lesser spotted likes of adventuring crabs, agender snail soldiers, large upright rodents or curious birdfolk.
Hopefully that alone should give you some idea of the kind of game that The Lands of Loor wants to be, but if not the designers list the delightfully odd Adventure Time and Samurai Jack as inspirations alongside the more familiar likes of grim and gritty OSR games.
Packed full of hex maps to explore, spells to sling, random encounters to deal with, a bestiary of strange beasts, starting scenarios and more, and all brought to surreal life in the wonderfully charismatic art of artist Łukasz Piwiński, this looks like a great little self contained game for those who can embrace the more bizarre end of the fantasy spectrum.
The great things about RPGs is that with just your imagination, some dice, pen & paper and a basketball court you can... Wait, a what now?
Yep, having tried dice, Jenga towers, tarot cards, you name it, And One, from Mark Copes, goes where no tabletop game I know has gone before and is a Basketball Court RPG that makes use of an actual basketball and basketball court to role-play games of basketball.
Now at first glance this admittedly seemed, let's say, a bit odd. Then I remembered both that we live in a world where a Queen's Gambit boardgame exists and more importantly the endless summer days I spent as a kid hitting footballs and tennis balls against a brick wall, and the oddly detailed narratives I'd weave around those games and it all began to click.
So, And One sees you create a team (complete with home & away strips), use dice to set the scene, determine scores, simulate the league's progression and then provide you with a series of plays for you to enact, in real life, on the court with rules to determine how your hoop shooting abilities affects the game's eventual outcome.
A novel and yet elegantly simple idea I can't imagine there will be anything else like this funding throughout this month and that alone makes it noteworthy and worth checking out.
Next stop Advanced Dungeon Bassmaster Fishing!