A deer, a pirate and a mutant join a kult – Kickstarter Round-up

Woo! First post of 2016, and the first post in far too long. I’ve really got no excuse, I just let things get away from me, and before I knew it, it’d been six bloody months since I’d posted. So, yeah, sorry about that.

Anyway, to ease me back into posting, I figured I’d start with something easy that I haven’t done in quite some time. A Kickstarter project round-up! The timing works well too, because goddamn am I ever backing a lot of projects right now. For this round-up and any future ones, I’ve decided to only talk about projects that I’m 100% guaranteed to be backing, and that I’m extremely confident in the ability of the project leads to actually not only deliver their product, but to do it at a high quality, since I’ve felt a bit guilty over some previous projects that I pushed hard that ended up being very disappointing to me (not going to name names, but there’s been a few seriously shocking results). As is usual for me, most of these projects are RPGs (I tend to back RPGs or boardgames for the most part), but there’s one comic in there.

Now, in the interests of not making myself start silently screaming in horror over how much money I’ve sunk into Kickstarter recently, I’m not going to include the three projects that finished in the last day, I’ll just be covering the four projects that are still in the funding stage… So let’s start this party off with the project I’m currently most excited about…

KULT: Divinity Lost

Project Ends: 8:00 AM AEDT, 01/04/2016
Current Status: Fully funded, and smashing through the stretch goals!
Expected Delivery: December 2016

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one, I’m so excited! I guess a little history is in order. Kult is a Swedish RPG that was first released in 1991, though its first English edition wasn’t released until 1993. If anyone reading this remembers the Satanic Panic that certain areas of the USA had over D&D, they’ve got an idea of some of the ridiculous and unwarranted controversy that Kult had to deal with in the years following it’s release (in brief, media outlets in Sweden linked it to a number of disappearances, suicides and so on that involved people who played the game… it even got mentioned in the Swedish parliament in relation to a motion to stop tax-payer funding for youth groups that play RPGs). Controversy aside, the game was praised for its depth and handling of religious and philosophical content and ideas in a mature, if somewhat disturbing (it’s a horror game, what do you expect, puppies and rainbows), manner. The setting is our modern society, but what we perceive as our world is in fact an illusion, created by powerful being known as the Demiurge to hold humanity prisoner and stop us from regaining our divinity, while the players take on the roles of various characters from all walks of life who have started to see through the illusion and discover the stranger nature of reality. I won’t go deeper into the setting here, there’s a lot to cover and I don’t have all night, but for a decent overview of it, check out the Wikipedia page. The system had some really innovative ways of dealing with mental balance and featured magic systems based on real life mystical traditions, so it’s a pretty fascinating read. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite RPGs of all time, though I’ve rarely been able to get groups together for it.

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

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Professor Jimbles Presents!: D&D 5E Review

So while our esteemed host has been trying more esoteric systems like “East Texas University”, I was introduced (read: Dragged screaming away from WoD and Pathfinder) to 5th Edition D&D/”D&D Next”.

Note from the Editor: I wouldn’t exactly call Savage Worlds (the system that East Texas University uses) “esoteric”. It’s just a very solid generic RPG system that can be adapted to a variety of settings with a minimum of effort. I’ll write about it more later.

In short: It’s good. It’s really good. It pokes all my favourite happy buttons.

In long: It was the best of times, it was the worst of tim-   

Anyway – 5th Edition.

I read through the Player’s Handbook and I’m floored. I read it in a single day and was so pleased. The endless lists of modifiers? Gone. Alignment restrictions? Gone. Obvious bias to casters? Poof.

So, yeah. I’m excited. I’m also pretty sure this huge shift away from what is traditionally associated with D&D (Huge crunch, expansive rules and character options, little focus on roleplaying.) is:

  1. Good for D&D.
  2. Good for Pathfinder.
  3. Very controversial.

Pathfinder and D&D 3.5/4 have been holding the same niche in roleplaying for a little while now.  Mechanics heavy fantasy roleplaying with years of experience and a wide community to build tools. (Hero Lab; for example.)

This divergence into a simpler, more open ruleset REALLY helps D&D as the “Beginner’s game” reputation it owns as being the longest running and most visible in the media. The option to make it more complicated is available… By trying Pathfinder.

Pathfinder currently has 89 (At my super-rough count.) books available, not including campaign setting and adventure paths. 89 books worth of customization and additional rules are available for you if you love your mechanics. (Another Editor’s Note: It’s worth pointing out that many of these books are very short, highly focused Player Companions, not full sized splats)

But of course, this means 5E doesn’t look much like D&D anymore. It’s not like the punishing 2nd Ed Tomb of Horrors; the expansive 3.5 filled with ridiculous feats from a third party or even the tactical MMORPG style gameplay of 4th Ed.

And while it’s not Open Gaming Licence, additional crunch is added with each new book. Princes of the Apocolypse has added Elemental races like Genasi. At what point does the scale tip? When does 5E start looking like 3.5?

Professor Jimbles Presents: “I play to win, baby.” 

Okay, so this is over a year overdue. I’m terrible, I know.

But let’s see this as an example of time teaching you, and making a fool of your past self.

In this time, I attended another Phenomenon in Canberra (And took away their drama Triptytch award with a group of people I had never met before.) and even ran my first game for the greater Canberra roleplaying community. All in all, another fantastic year.

Why competitive roleplaying? This genre is built around making a story as a team! Guiding these semi-real entities through trials both emotional and physical! Wouldn’t adding a competitive edge ruin it? Wouldn’t the ever present thought of “Am I doing this well enough to get an award?” ruin your immersion?

Well, no. First of all, your GM is likely to be running multiple sessions of their game (Even I did, and it was my first year.) and with premade characters, there is bound to be a player or a group who has an interpretation that matches their inital designs. Us GMs do enjoy a bit of ego stroking; if a player can find interest in characters we created enough to perfectly encapsulate them in their performance then it is only natural to have a preference.

On the other hand, if someone takes a character in a completely new direction that surprises and excites the GM, this could also endear the player to them. Surprising someone who has run a particular scenario up to 11 times already is a feat worthy of recognition. Especially if this interpretation is better than what they initially envisioned.

Let’s get something clear, you are never competing against the people you’re weaving a story with. These competitive games at Phenomenon are collaborative, so you are building a story with the GM and the other players, usually-but-not-always using a rules light or no rules system. Unlike a more rigid game like Pathfinder, the ever present urge for optimization and survivability is absent. If you can’t fail because someone isn’t pulling their weight, then you’re without THAT form of competition against your fellow players.

Lastly; and most importantly comes the phrase I hear most often when describing the Perpetual games.

“But that’s rediculous, how do you score a “Winner” of rules-light or systemless games?”

Easy! These are drama or comedy games. You can use a very simple “Who made me feel/laugh the most?” metric. You could add points for anyone who has a highly quotable line, and remove them for anyone who keeps breaking character. As well as the interpretation idea I explored above.

This does mean that it comes down to more Romanticism than Enlightenment, but I’m okay with that. The kind of games that flourish under plot and characterization heavy settings don’t often come with a clear mathematical “Winner” anyway. You’re gonna have an emotional favourite anyway.

Picture of the winning team: Shiny Things and me, from Cardgames on Motorcycles. 


Photo made publically available. Please ask before reproduction. Names withheld on request.