It’s Gen Con week, and I’m looking at four inclusive games. Since Gen Con is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the world, it feels like it’s the perfect time to look at some games that encompass all groups.
“A complete rpg plus a shared-universe story/poetry anthology about psychic people of color saving the Earth from invisible monsters
The forthcoming book John Silence from Ginger Goat Press is an original RPG and shared universe collection of short stories and poems. Your John Silence game is about people of color who are psychic detectives committed to saving Earth from planar creatures invisible to most humans.
The story is set in the United States between the years 1938 and 1998. This universe is an updated version of the one in Algernon Blackwood’s 1908 novel, John Silence, Physician Extraordinary.
This game is inspired by the mechanics of D&D and various OSR games. However, attacks and combat have been replaced with rhetoric and conversation. You are not rolling to kill the monster. You’re rolling to convince them to do what you tell them. Unlike in most RPGs, violence is not the best way to achieve your goal.
The John Silence universe is about black, indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) psychic detectives. It is set in the United States at some time between 1938 and 1998. TV shows like The Dead Zone and Heartless fit the tone of this game, but we want a more diverse cast of characters.
John Silence is Weird Fiction or noir, but reinvented to be non-racist, non-sexist, and mostly non-violent. During a game, players are forbidden to use hate speech or slurs. Stories must not contain non-consensual sex or glamorized violence.
Stories might, for example, feature radios, cars, angels, witches, aliens or poltergeists. However, they will not feature smartphones, tablets, giants, or dragons.
GMs and players might want to explore these themes during a John Silence adventure.
- Psychic powers are interdimensional. They involve other planes. Psychic monsters are attracted to human psychic activity.
- Friendship, kindness, and forethought are heroic virtues.
- Humans with psychic powers feel obligated to defend humans without.
The John Silence book is a complete roleplaying game (no other books needed) designed by Josh T. Jordan and his team. The book is also an anthology of several poems and short stories by writers of color. It will be full-color, 6×9 inches, and an estimated 160 pages long. We plan to make a pdf version, a softcover, and a Kickstarter-Exclusive hardcover version with a unique cover. This hardcover version will only be available to Kickstarter backers.”
Looking for a game with an option to talk through situations instead of planning ambushes? Looking for a yesteryear (1938 to 1998) setting where “black, indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC) [are] psychic detectives”? All while using modified D&D and OSR rules? John Silence is trying new mechanics that benefits game design while creating a setting that offers original thoughts.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.
You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.
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Behind the Masc Zine by Brie Sheldon
Ends on Sun, August 5 2018 4:28 PM EDT.
“A game zine re-envisioning masculinity through the eyes of non-cisgender masculine creators.
Behind the Masc is a game zine using historical and cultural archetypes to re-envision masculinity through the eyes of non-cisgender masculine creators. The creators include experienced game designers and illustrators as well as newer people to the game industry. The project hopes to draw attention to indie creators in tabletop games who are still marginalized people, but can fall into the ether when it comes to representation and people campaigning for their work to be seen.
This game zine is a collection of game materials for a variety of systems. It will be available digitally and in print as a short-run booklet with half-letter (US) size pages.
What’s inside, and who is doing it?
Behind the Masc will include a variety of game materials, including a new Monsterhearts skin, a Twine narrative game, and some great illustrations! Illustrations will be half-page (so one page in the zine), black and white, with a brief on the concept. Game materials will fill up to three zine pages and have a brief discussing how their design expresses their concept of masculinity.
For culturally related topics, we’ll have a sensitivity reader review the content before publication. The editor is Brie Sheldon, who is also the curator of the project and a contributor.”
Eli Eaton is a trans-masculine person residing in Ontario Canada. He currently just runs and plays games, but has been dabbling with game design here and there for the past year or so. This is his first publication. His contribution to Behind the Masc will be a character skin for a PbtA game (to be determined) modeled after benign trickster characters from mythology and folk heroes. He does not have an official website, but he does most of his gaming talk on G+ and Facebook.
Patrick Lickman is a writer and designer from Sheffield, UK. They work at a board games cafe, where they run various roleplaying projects in a variety of systems, aimed to be accessible to newcomers to the hobby. They are a Forever GM, only playing their first RPG three years after running one. They will contribute The Demi, a godlike skin for Monsterhearts 2.
Raiden Otto is eager to be working on Behind the Masc. He is a nonbinary masc that uses he/him/his pronouns. While he is new to the video game design scene, for years he has been making art available on Instagram, Tumblr, ArtStation, and his portfolio sites. For this project, he will be creating a character concept sheet for an FtM man based in the Ming Dynasty of China with the use of Paint Tool SAI.
Adrian Heise is a writer and generalist/narrative game designer from British Columbia, Canada. He has contributed in the past to games such as Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2, The Long Dark, and the cancelled Visceral Star Wars project. For Behind the Masc, he is producing a short interactive Twine narrative exploring the role of the “protector” as it applies to masculine-identifying queer people.
Lemmo Pew (him/he, pan/fluid/non-binary) is an artist, illustrator and game designer from Minneapolis, MN. Lem’s art spans the indie gamut from self-publishing comic books and anthologies, to illustrations for independently published games and gaming websites, stretching from ’99 to the present. His most current web presence is the online streaming channel, HotSoup.TV, and can be found on Twitter at @Lemmo.
Alex McConnaughey (@variant_games) likes to design games that make your heart race, that make you laugh or shout or cry. They think games can be a great tool for learning and growth, but they mostly just try to engage the players around the table in an experience as quickly and deeply as possible. They have designed games for contests, including their first game, As We Know It, a Golden Cobra honorable mention, but last year they broke into formal (paid) design with The Imposters anthology. They’re designing a Minotaur Skin for Monsterhearts, for the obvious maze metaphor of understanding their gender and trying to navigate masculinity, as well as the role of existing solely as a challenge for someone else to conquer.
Lawrence Gullo (He/Him) is an Illustrator, comic writer, and playwright currently developing an exorcism dating sim. He enjoys larps that generate empathy and doing D&D homebrew. He’s spoken on trans and queer topics at cons for years, including Gen Con and Flame Con. He explores the spectrum of masculine experience in the sect of male Bacchae he’s designing for Behind the Masc, serving as a spiritual origin or location in an RPG setting. Find him @hismajesty on Twitter and bashback on Tumblr.
Brie Sheldon is a queer game designer, journalist, and editor and is a genderfluid nonbinary-masculine person. They are the creator of Script Change, Let Me Take a Selfie, and a number of other small products, and have worked on larger professional projects like Firefly Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim and Bubblegumshoe. They have managed the Thoughty Blogfor over 5 years and do interviews, create free games released through their Patreon, and also created Leading with Class, a leadership show teaching through games. Their passions are asking questions, selfies, and exploring exciting ideas in games. For this project, Brie is creating question pages, curating materials, doing layout and design, and filling in spaces where needed.
Tracy Barnett is a genderqueer (they/them) game designer (School Daze, Iron Edda Accelerated) and podcast producer (TheOtherCast). By working with other publishers and producing their own content, they hope to make game design and podcasting their full-time work. For Behind the Masc, Tracy will be exploring masculine physical presentation and non-traditional masculine behaviors through a D&D 5e Sorcerer you can use in your home games.
Let’s list this project’s positives:
- It’s a zine (I love them)
- It has an interesting theme that may prove eye-opening (“re-envision masculinity through the eyes of non-cisgender masculine creators”… Being dead-level-honest here, I don’t know what that means, but I’m interested to read about it as it relates to gaming because I feel I’ll gain a great deal from it)
- What inspires me the most, though, is it lets some of the most innovative creators out there create the content that they’re passionate about. For as little as $5 (the “Behind the Masc PDF” pledge level), we’ll get content from Eli Eaton, Patrick Lickman, Raiden Otto, Adrian Heise, Lemmo Pew, Alex McConnaughey, Lawrence Gullo, Brie Sheldon, and Tracy Barnett for D&D 5e, Powered by the Apocalypse, Monsterhearts 2, and more.
It’s a lot of good creators doing their thing with a low cost of entry and I’m eager to see it happen!
You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.
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HeartBeat Pride Dice by HeartBeat Dice
Ends on Mon, August 6 2018 1:33 PM EDT.
“A variety of layered Pride themed polyhedral dice sets for board games & RPG games.
Hello, we’re HeartBeat Dice and with your help we’d like to help bring your Pride to the gaming table with these 6 Pride Sets!
After the overwhelming success of HD’s Rainbow Dice Set we decided to expand our range of colors so that everyone could have a set to call their own but with a unique twist. In lieu of the 20 on the d20 we’ve made it a heart, because love always crits!
This first Kickstarter project will be very simple and straightforward. Below are the 6 sets we’ll be offering for this campaign and yes, Lesbian Dice are going to be included in this roster. The final design will be shared once our prototypes are in-hand.
- Rainbow Pride Set
- Transgender Pride Dice
- Pansexual Pride Set
- Asexual Pride Set
- Bisexual Pride Set
- Lesbian Pride Set
With your help and support we can continue to expand our line of dice to include more Pride Flags and other themed sets in the future.
UPDATE** As a thank you to everyone who has backed our project we’d like to also announce every order of dice will include a free HeartBeat Dice Bag!”
These dice look perfect for any game, and they’re inspiring. I appreciate the set including 4d6. For gaming, that’s what I want to see in every dice set! I am glad to see this project receiving so much attention (it’ll exceed $100,000 easily).
You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.
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Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined (An RPG of friendship!) by Riley Hopkins
Ends on Mon, August 13 2018 10:48 AM EDT.
“A PbtA Tabletop RPG about traveling to other worlds, the bonds we have with other people, and how we’re stronger for them.
Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined is a tabletop RPG about our connections with other people, the power we draw from those connections, and traveling to different worlds.
For those that don’t know, a Powered by the Apocalypse Engine game is a roleplaying game that utilizes playbooks for characters, rolls using 2d6 plus your stat, and is generally a more narrative then crunchy roleplaying game. See Monster of the Week, Monsterhearts, or The Sprawl for other examples.
In Interstitial, you will travel through the barriers between Worlds with your party. You’ll meet new friends, enemies, teachers and learn about yourself. You will also be able to visit and partake in events in your favorite intellectual properties or your own worlds ala Kingdom Hearts. In short; Take two worlds that don’t fit each other, smash them together, wipe away the dust and find out how they do.
Think of this game as a vehicle for you to play out Fanfiction. You control the story, either with your self-insert or another canon character from a different property just smashed into this other one.
The stories this game tells are invoking the tone and emotions of Kingdom Hearts, Super Smash Bros Brawl’s Subspace Emmisary, and Comic Crossovers/Events.
The Link System is the load-bearing mechanic of this game. It is used to represent the connections we have with others, and it boils them down into four different categories: Light, Dark, Mastery, and Heart.
A Light link is all about positive relationships we have with others. They’re our friendships, our loves, some of our families, and anyone who helps lift you up in times of need. An example of this would be Luke and Leia.
Dark links are representative of rivals, enemies, and relationships that are overall negative. People who approach you in an antagonistic way, bullies, some of our families. They try to drag you down to their level. An example of this would be Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.
Mastery links paint the picture of teacher-student relationships. Anyone trying to teach or learn has Mastery Links. Students, journeymen, cruel witches, and henchmen are all examples of those in a mastery link relationship. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel would have a Mastery Link.
Finally, Heart links are the most complicated of all. They are how we view ourselves and things we decide about our own being by watching other people. If you looked at someone’s failure and said “I won’t make that same mistake.”, that’s a Heart link. If someone came to you in a time when you were faltering and watching them made you make the right decision, then that’s a Heart Link. Bucky has a Heart link with Captain America.
You gain links in play by rolling the Make a Link move, and adding the stat that you want to classify the link as. So if you met an NPC and after a first impression the two of you are bickering, you’d roll a Dark link.
These links don’t need to be the same in both directions, relationships are complicated things, and not everyone sees them in the same way. They can change over time, sometimes grow stronger and sometimes fade away entirely. But while we have a link with another person, we can draw power from it.
In game, you can spend Links to activate moves, gain advantage on rolls, and all in all mimic how you and other players know each other and react to each other. Each individual playbook also has a Link Move, so every time you successfully make a Link, your Link Move goes off, and effects the game in some way.
The game comes with 9 Playbooks to start. Each playbook will have playbook specific moves and their Link move.
The Playbooks are all dramatically different yet can work together in any combination you put them in. Interstitial comes with the following nine unique playbooks:
The Chosen: The class that is your base form “protagonist”. The mechanics of this book help you assist your friends in big set pieces and fights.
The Connected: This represents the allies you’d gain from world to world, and allows you to change your character in each new world, should you choose to.
The Dark: Every party needs a dark force looming over them, and sometimes you want to play that force. If manipulation is your game, or if maybe you are a three-stage boss fight, this is the book for you.
The Discarded: If there’s a chosen, there’s someone who feels like they were looked over for the role. They take that disappointment, that resentment, and channel it into their combat.
The Displaced: As worlds sink into the darkness, people get taken and removed from their homes. These people end up somewhere different, and are trying to get their wits about them.
The Friend: Just like every story needs a hero and a villain, it needs a friend. Someone to be there and help strengthen the party in times of stress and help them overcome their fears.
The Light: The Light is all about creating Heart links with others and leveraging those. They anchor people down and help them find their way home in the darkness.
The Mystic: You know what’s best for everyone, even if they don’t quite know it themselves. The Mystic is all about keeping secrets, saving people, and sometimes making the hard choices no one else wants to make.
The Other: You aren’t the original one, you aren’t the first. People discount you and don’t believe in you and push you to the sidelines. This playbook comes with a feature that gives you a Counterpart that is the real you.”
This game is open to everyone, it’s fueled by interpersonal relationships using the Powered by the Apocalypse system. There’s a lot of potential to create unique worlds and situations without the stress of ensuring your characters are high enough level to dish out the violence. This is adventures over brawls. As with the other products on this list, this game allows everyone to play and have a good time.
You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.
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Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links.
Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
Freelancer for EN World, Knights of the Dinner Table, Open Gaming Network, and the Tessera Guild.
Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Want to share news? Rumors? Sneak peeks? Deals? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).