Kickstarter has been a big boon for both players and developers alike – but it is a double-edged sword. This is the first of our monthly Kickstarter watches, where we will look at some RPG and board game products that interest us.
Update: Idiot that I am, I foolishly forgot to credit fellow writer and board game editor Magnús for contributing to this article. Sorry about that.
It still surprises us how much misunderstanding there is about how Kickstarter actually works and why it is a risk. The fact is that in today’s environment, whether you are developing an RPG, video game, music or a variety of other things, it’s never been easier to make something but it’s never been harder to get the necessary attention – both for financing a project and for marketing purposes. Only the major players on the market can really afford to handle the entire process of developing, marketing and distributing their products without assistance. This is why crowdfunding has been a drastic difference maker in the past few years, especially since printing costs have risen dramatically in the last decade or so.
We’ve seen many great successes from Kickstarted projects but also some colossal failures. The biggest disappointment is always when a project that has been funded fizzles and vanishes into thin air, leaving you with nothing but an annoying line on your credit card statement and the loss of some money. I’ll always take a poorer product over nothing, but that also stings. And when you get those truly impressive things, that’s a cause for a minor celebration and to take a tiny bit of pride in helping keep the little guys afloat.
If you want to play it safe (and it’s applicable), buy the pdf or digital version of the product. As we have pointed out before, it saves space and money but in this case it also minimises the risk and avoids shipping costs, which can get surprisingly high. If you think it’s a safe bet, then by all means splurge. And if you start by playing it safe, then later think it looks to good to ignore the printed product you can in many cases upgrade via the developer.
Before getting to our picks, let’s make one thing clear – these are neither recommendations nor paid or solicited plugs, but simply things that caught our eye. We have no way of knowing how these products will turn out or if they even will at all.
So here goes…
Strongholds & Followers
Now, this one you quite probably already know of. It has gotten a huge amount of positive attention. The pledges have already passed one million, out of a $50,000 goal, so barring disasters, there’s no risk of this not being distributed. However, the near universal praise means this is probably worth your money if you’re even remotely interested. This book is written for D&D 5e rules and brings back the strongholds and followers (you don’t say…) of 1e and 2e, along with new rules on how to build and maintain strongholds and attracting and managing followers. That means new kinds of adventures, armies, a quest system for followers, artisans and craftspeople and ambassadors and political intrigue. This one really seems strong. You can get the pdf for $20 and a print copy for $30, with several more tiers. This Kickstarter ends March 11th.
The Wild Hunt for Call of Cthulhu
Now this is intriguing – blending Celtic myths and Call of Cthulhu. This is an adventure set in the 1920’s, where Irish rebels discover a way to summon the Wild Hunt of Celtic lore but can barely contain its power and need assistance to either control or destroy it. Who can be trusted? Can the Wild Hunt be controlled? And what will the results of the Investigators’ actions be? This will be quite substantial, at a planned 90 pages. This has already reached its funding goal but some stretch goals remain if you’re interested. You can get the pdf for £9, a softcover for £20 and a hardcover for £35, with some higher tiers – including getting to play the adventure run by its creator in the highest tier. However, I wouldn’t even think about that last one unless you are a UK resident. This Kickstarter ends March 1st.
Testudine Time Travelers
This lawsuit waiting to happen amuses me to no end. I’m a child of the early 80’s so of course I was a fan of certain sewer dwelling, pizza eating reptiles who had a suspiciously high level of proficiency in Oriental martial arts and weaponry. These descendants (ho-hum) named Caravaggio, Ghiberti, Botticelli and Masaccio have evolved and picked up firearms along the way and if you’ve always felt the need to have minis for RPG’s or wargaming that look quite a bit like (but definitely not the same as) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™, this one’s for you. This one has not reached its goal yet, it’s slightly under its $600 goal but there’s plenty of time to think about it, as this Kickstarter ends on March 14th.
Pirate Campaign Compendium
Legendary Games has a record of making some fine supplements. This one is obviously focused on maritime adventures and themes for both 5e and Pathfinder. It will include five adventures, a bunch of magical items, sea monsters, NPC archetypes, ship-shape and ready crews with PC and NPC possibilities. It will be more than 200 pages when ready. This is already financed but stretch goals remain and they seem quite good, especially the potential of new ship-to-ship combat rules, $30 gets you the pdf for either 5e or Pathfinder, while $50 gets you the hardback for either system. There are several higher tiers. This Kickstarter ends March 6th.
Kung Fu Animals (Save the World)
This book aims to recreate the feel of Saturday morning cartoons like Thundercats (yes, please), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many others of their ilk. It’s set in Savage World rules, which seems very appropriate. The number of players will determine the theme of the game and the roles of each player, from a lone wolf or dynamic duo up to a group of heroes with a leader, rebel, clown or any of several other possibilities. The creator has previously had some successful Kickstarter RPG’s, but I know of him from his video game work – which is quite impressive. Unfortunately, there are less details than I’d like in his pitch but his record is good. KFA(STW) is quite a way from reaching its goal as of now, but there’s time to spare, as the Kickstarter ends on March 14th.
Good Society: a Jane Austen Roleplaying Game
A few years ago, I would have scoffed and ridiculed this. But age and maturity have taught me that this is actually a brilliant idea. As a former literature student, I simply cannot deny that Jane Austen was a brilliant writer even if it isn’t the first thing I’d reach for in my shelf and for a pure roleplayer, her work could inspire something amazing. When creating a character you build from a character role, family background, relationships and a secret desire. When you back this, you can also get separate LARP rules – that is absolutely not my thing, but it sounds like a good idea. For those backing a slightly higher tier, you also get alternate rules in the same world – but with magic! This one is really interesting and quite reasonably priced too, and I’m obviously not the only one thinking that, as the project has been financed many times over although some stretch goals remain. You get pdf of the basic game for 13 AU$, but for 22 AU$ you get an awful lot of goodies – including all stretch goal pdf’s, of which there is a bunch. This Kickstarter ends March 5th.
Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master
The aim of this book is to help GM’s to get more out of their game with less preparation. Now, we Yawners consistently see that our GM tip articles get a lot of attention so this sounds like there’s a market for it. Even with my decades of experience, it always helps to see what others are doing, so I’m tempted – especially since the price is very reasonable. This is a revised and updated version of a previous release, made 5 years ago. It’s already funded and has even reached all its stretch goals, but it’s a steal at this price. This Kickstarter ends March 10th.
For those of us reliant on maps for our games, this looks very tempting. These are durable, yet flexible, and waterproof plastic tokens for your map that come in three sets, camping, castle furniture and castle siege. This could make your story really come alive and help both with visualisation and tactics. It has just crawled past its goal, but several stretch goals remain. This one is not the cheapest thing going, but nothing too bad. For $15 you get any one set, for $30 you get your choice of two and for $40 you get them all, with several other tiers both above and below. This Kickstarter ends on March 14th.
Creatures of Vathis: Volume One
This is a follow-up to Zodiac Empires, a campaign setting successfully Kickstarted by the same group in 2015 and meant for both 5e and Pathfinder. This is a bestiary, there will be separate books for each system and it aims at 150 pages. It will include four new creature types meant for the Zodiac Empires setting but everything can be used for any game. One of the stretch goals is volume two, which will only include tougher and more dangerous monsters. However, this one is quite far from its $25,000 goal but there remains some time. $15 gets you the pdf for either version, while $30 gets you a hardcover. This Kickstarter ends March 3rd.
Now this was a pleasant surprise. An adventure written for 1e and 2e in 2018 on Kickstarter. The artwork so far shown is dripping with old-school goodness. The adventure itself includes not only enemies, but puzzles that need to be solved and NPC’s that need to be persuaded, along with a possibility of extending the adventure to the outer planes. This is already funded, the creator isn’t asking for much but there are two things that interest me here: this is dirt cheap and interesting and if the project gets backing for more than $1000, you also get a pdf of the creator’s Western RPG called Print the Legend (two points for the first to recognise that quote – no googlin’!). For $7 you get the pdf and for $19 you get a print copy. This Kickstarter ends March 5th.
Limitless Encounters 2
This book is filled to the gills with encounters, environments, new monsters and adventure hooks for busy 5e DM’s. The aim is to save time and liven up campaigns, especially for DM’s with limited time to prepare. This has reached its goal and is almost ready but stretch goals remain. The price is quite reasonable, $15 gets you the pdf, while $25 gets you the softcover. This Kickstarter ends March 1st.
The Princess Bride Roleplaying Game
Oh boy. To put it mildly, I love the film this is based on, and they make it clear that the film is the inspiration rather than the book, and I think the film gets better with the years. So this excites me. This is an experienced Kickstarter team, working in diverse fields, cooperating with an experienced GURPS and FUDGE developer on creating an RPG based on the beloved film. It will be based on FUDGE rules, where most rolls are 2d6 but an advantage or disadvantage adds or subtracts a die. Quick start rules are already available. I’m quite tempted by this one. $25 gets you the pdf, $50 gets you the book and there are several higher tiers. This Kickstarter ends March 15th.
This is a minimalist, post-apocalyptic RPG. Everything is based on a quick setup and a minimum of fuss. The real interesting thing here are the stretch goals, which came in hard and fast. Each will add a mini-setting or campaign. The developers have considerable Kickstarter experience. The project is funded and all but one of the stretch goals are in. $10 gets you the pdf while $35 gets you the softcover plus a bunch of goodies. This Kickstarter ends March 15th.
From Sandy Petersen, famous for designing the Call of Cthulhu system by Chaosium and numerous video games such as Doom, Quake and the Age of Empires series and his most recent line Cthulhu Wars, comes Planet Apocalypse! A dungeon crawler where hell has come to earth. Players take on the role of cyberpunk-ish heroes working together trying to slay a horde of hellish creatures to eventually get to the Demon Lord. Send Hell back whence it came! Planet Apocalypse comes packed with loads of beautifully detailed miniatures, four different types of maps and hundreds of other components. The pledge levels start at $99 and will get you the core game as well as all the stretch goals. Higher pledge tier rewards include more demon factions and a planned expansion straight away. Planet Apocalypse has reached it’s goal threefold already and stretch goals are still being added. This Kickstarter ends February 27th.
Aeon’s End: Legacy
Aeon’s End is a cooperative deck building game. Players will struggle to defend Gravehold from The Nameless and their hordes using unique abilities, powerful spells, and the help of familiar characters from previous Aeon games. Legacy games are unique in a way that that the outcomes of certain scenarios or games can affect future games. Player may have to write on the board or tear up cards, place stickers on their characters, add new rules and permanently change the state of the game. The pledge tiers start at $65 and will yield you the game with all of its stretch goals with the option of buying add-ons for 20-25 dollars. There are still numerous stretch goals waiting to be unlocked although the game has already met it’s goal of $60,000. This Kickstarter ends March 16th.
CO2: Second Chance
CO2: Second Chance revises and enriches the original competitive game CO2, published in 2012 and also includes a brand-new cooperative game, in which the players have to collaborate to save the world, losing victory points each turn they don’t achieve their goals. So you are essentially getting two games in one.
In CO2: Second Chance, each player manages an energy company that responds government requests for new, clean power plants. The goal of the players is to stop the increase of pollution while also meeting the demand for sustainable energy. You will need enough expertise, money, and resources to build green power plants. Energy summits will promote global awareness while allowing companies to share a little of their expertise and learn more from other societies. If the pollution is not stopped, it’s Game Over.
Vita Lacerda is known for big games oozing with character and beautiful illustrations by artist Ian O’Toole. Their previous collaborations are games such as Vinhos, Lisboa and The Gallerist.
For €65 you will get the base game along with all the stretch goals but for €75 you’ll receive a signed and numbered copy of CO2: Second chance. This Kickstarter ends on February 28th.
Endeavor: Age of Sail
Another revised and enhanced edition of a previously published game. In Endeavor: Age of Sail, players strive to earn glory for their empires. Sailing out from Europe and the Mediterranean, players will establish shipping routes and occupy cities the world over. As they do so, players will leverage their growing industry, culture, finance, and influence, building their engines and extending their reach into the far-flung regions of the world. The rules have been updated and streamlined to accommodate player counts and changes from the previous version. The commodore pledge of 80 CA$ will provide you with recessed boards which I think are necessary due the number of cubes and tokens on your playing mat to prevent them from shifting. You can get the game for a cheaper price of 68 CA$ but then you’ll lose out on the recessed board and sculpted status trackers. Of course both those pledges will provide you with all the stretch goals of which there are plenty, however some of them are Commodore level exclusives. This Kickstarter ends on March 2nd.