4 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Something Is Wrong Here, Jack Hack, Occam’s Razor, and Prism

For this week’s RPG Kickstarter roundup, I’m looking at games that deal in Lovecraftian horror, surrealism, and relationships. These games look both forward into the relationships of today and the future while others expose the dark soul of the past. All are worth backing.

 

Prism by Whitney M. Delaglio
Ends on Fri, September 28 2018 10:00 PM EDT.

 

“A diceless roleplaying game about relationships and conflict resolution in an aquatic world.

“Once upon a time, there was a barren planet without life, an ocean, or vegetation. Six gods in coalition made the world habitable. Five of the six gods each took an island for their own and molded it into the home they wanted to leave behind, for the life they had created and for the generations to come. The Blue Realm was created beneath the waves, built atop sand where merfolk could thrive. They lived there as mortals until their deaths, returning to their godly forms to observe from afar.”

Prism is a roleplaying game about relationships (both platonic and romantic) and conflict resolution set in an aquatic world. There are six realms in the game with their own culture, code of ethics, and deity. The setting of the game promotes a sex positive environment and a safe space to explore intimate character interactions.

Prism is also a world of elemental magic, but the mechanics are light and conversational. The rest of the rules rely less on crunch, and more on negotiations between players and the GM. There are three core mechanics in the game. The first is each character starts out with at least one relationship with another character in the game. Depending how they feel about the other person, they’ll receive a unique bonus. The second is instead of using dice, characters rely on predetermined levels of expertise in skills such as swimming, dancing, and following protocol to solve narrative conflicts, and interact with the world around them. The third mechanic is each character is loyal to a realm, and depending on their behavior, they can be punished or rewarded by the god that watches over the realm they are loyal to.

“Prism offers players a chance to think about their characters emotional lives in a way that is really fresh. I love the way in Prism what your character feels, and how they relate to the world – and the world, to them – actually matters.” – Jason Morningstar

“This is a delightful work. I am reminded again at how calm it makes me feel to read it. That is also a testament to her choices of words and phrasing.” – Cam Banks

“Character creation was a delight. Character creation is my least favorite thing about RPGs, so this is the highest compliment to pay.” – Elizabeth Stong

Since the core of the game is relationships between player and non-player characters, it’s intended for a maximum of four players. For a really intimate experience, Prism can even be played one-on-one with the GM!

“I love Prism’s attention to the dynamic nature of our relationships, and there is no better way to explore that theme than in a game where it’s just you and the GM. Experiencing love and loss through such a highly-focused lens was powerful and inspiring. I have never felt so affected by a single session of any game.” – Andrea Gaulke

“Prism was rich with opportunities, fun to explore, and intimate without being overwhelming. I felt like my character could stand alone during the adventure, but I also had the sense that if the game expanded to include more players, it could be just as fun.” – Kimberley Lam

All the writing, and most of the art was done by yours truly. The rulebook has over 50 full color illustrations. I collaborated with one of my best friends, Maria Smith, to complete the artwork for the Almanac.

The physical copy of the book is 6×9 softcover, full color, and 48 pages in length. The great thing about this campaign is the digital version has already been finalized. Which means once it has ended, printing and fulfillment can begin soon after.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Let’s do the list of why this is an idea that’s worth checking out:

  • Diceless? Check
  • Aquatic? Check
  • “[P]romotes a sex positive environment and a safe space to explore intimate character interactions”? Check

Normally a game tries one “new”, or rarely used, concept. Prism is a grab bag of ideas that, after reading the campaign, feel like they belong together. This RPG is opening new doors and stepping through, and I cannot wait to see how it plays!

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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The Jack Hack Complete. A Dark Victorian role-playing game by John R Davis
Ends on Sun, September 30 2018 1:30 PM EDT.

 

“The Jack Hack is a rpg of trying to beat the odds in the depravity of late Victorian London. It was inspired by the Black Hack OSR rpg

The Goal of this Kickstarter.

To create an updated version of the Jack Hack rpg including a limited printed box set.

The Jack Hack is a Role-Playing Game of Victorian Villains.   It was originally inspired by  The Black Hack rpg by David Black & my love of Victorian Adventuring. The release will contain a full rules set based on the Black Hack, modified to fit the setting.

You were once quite worthy fellows. Something terrible happened and you hit rock bottom. Were it not for a mysterious benefactor you would have died. Maybe you would have been better off that way. Your life is one long fight to survive in the twisting, dank alleyways of the Whitechapel area of London.  And now rumour has it there is a serial killer on the loose“.

The main thrust of the The Jack Hack as a game is trying to beat the odds in the depravity of late Victorian London. It has a particular focus on the Whitechapel area just before, and around the time of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders.  The PCs aren’t heroes, but aren’t meant to be down-right cruel either. They are trying to get by- but situations, events and adventures keep coming their way.

Clearly the Whitechapel Murders were a terrible event but the mystery and legend about them is perfect for game creativity.  

The Jack Hack Complete (Or The Jack Hack-The Complete Rip-Off, if you forgive the terrible pun) is produced as a set of five A5 sized books each about 60 pages in length. Parts of it have previously been released on ‘DriveThruRPG.com’ where it is a Silver Seller. This release will contain much more material, a good edit throughout, and more art and images.  As well as a set of new cover art.

The following details the five books

  • The Jack Hack Basic Book. This includes the rules.
  • Ripper Fhtagn. A game book of Mythos, Mesmerism and Monsters.
  • Dead London. A game book of Martian Invasion and Steampunk.
  • Carved In Flesh. 5 scenarios based around the Whitechapel Murders.
  • The Great Game. A game book of Anarchists, Political Intrique and Spies.
The Jack Hack Basic Book
The Jack Hack Basic Book

The Jack Hack. This contains all the rules needed to play and stacks of random tables and adventure seeds.

The game features 5  classes:

  • The Broken. Former military tough or pit-fighter, now a shallow shell of a man.
  • The Night-Flower. A singer, actress; now working girl unable to rise out of the squalor.
  • The Cokum. A street swindler, hypnotist, false nobility or fake folk hero. ·
  • The Disgraced. A former doctor, scientist, lawyer, politician; abandoned by friends and family. ·
  • The Fine-Wire. Once a master criminal, now mocked by both police and thieves.
One born every minute....
One born every minute….

It also features two usage dice:

The White. This usage dice represents your ‘outer’ influence, infamy, contacts and place in the Whitechapel area. You can use it to quickly gather information, find a safe house, find a short cut, or anything your group deems relevant.

The Black. This usage dice represents the ‘inner’ torment you suffer. You can call on it to complete a task, but the GM can force its use when she (or you) thinks a recent setback may cause you to go into a downward spiral and you need to face your demons.

Most classes start with a d6 to a d10 in a usage dice. When they are called on, the relevant dice is rolled to ensure you just get through that situation. If a 1-2 is rolled the dice is degraded one step (d10 to d8, d6 to d4) to represent you using up any influence and resources you may have; also your will, sanity, and/or self discipline being worn away.

The Rest of the book is ‘Welcome to Whitechapel’ and contains lots of random stuff to see, do and suffer! Images and Maps. There are many random tables such as:

  •  20 things found floating in the Thames.
  •  20 things a street vendor may sell you.
  •  20 places to wake up the morning after.
  •  20 petty criminals.
  •  20 words a gentleman wouldn’t call his wife.
Sample d20 things
Sample d20 things

There are about two dozen of these in total. There are also many lists of places to visit, and numerous adventure seeds to start your Jack Hack.

Fear Itself
Fear Itself
Who would have believed.......
Who would have believed…….
There will be blood
There will be blood
The Games Afoot
The Games Afoot

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

I’m a John R Davis fan! In the days when I backed projects to write for them (and build my resume), I did some NPCs and location creation for his book, The Cruellest Mistress of All. I’ve interviewed him over on the Open Gaming Network (here). Through it all, I’ve found John to be an easy to get along with creator. Now he’s combining his version of the OSR, The Black Hack, with Victorian England. With the artwork above, I’m sold!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * *

 

Occam’s Razor, a collection of scenarios for Call of Cthulhu by Stygian Fox Publishing
Ends on Mon, October 1 2018 12:16 PM EDT.

 

“A series of adventures where evil and the Cthulhu mythos is not what it seems.

Occam’s Razor is a collection of modern scenarios by horror author and Call of Cthulhu stalwart Brian M. Sammons for Chaosium Inc’s 7th edition Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. It has a dark tone, like most Stygian Fox titles, more akin to True Detective and American Horror Story and is written for Mature Gamers Only. The scenarios look into the dark heart of humanity and the mythos… but this book has a twist.

One of the problems long term Keepers can face when running Call of Cthulhu is their players becoming too jaded or blasé regarding the Cthulhu mythos.

“Oh, Deep Ones? Yeah, we’ve killed these before. Open fire.”
Rather than; “Oh my God! They’re real! Run!”

It’s difficult to maintain that suspension of belief when you have been facing the same creatures year after year. This is where Occam’s Razor comes in, being a collection of scenarios where initially they seem to be linked to the mythos but they have mundane causes and outcomes.

I have run these type of scenarios for twenty years and every time they sucker players in and help them see how paranoid their characters have become and, more importantly, when it comes time to face the actual mythos again, many players believe the adventure will have a mundane cause. When interspersed with mythos adventures this leads to some serious panic when the players realise that this is real. Used sparingly, these adventures lull players into a false sense of security and make the next real mythos encounter all the more vivid.

One of my players had his character just stand and watch as a colleague was eaten by a dark shadow in a toy store because the player refused to believe it was a mythos entity. This was a ten year veteran of the game.

Of course, a separate sidebar is provided for each adventure if you wish to have actual mythos elements in your game.

Call of Cthulhu is the Registered Trademark of Chaosium Inc., and is used with their permission. www.chaosium.com

 Brian M. Sammons has created 6 scenarios which tease at mythos causes but will ultimately lead to a mundane resolution. A murder is just a murder, a cult site is just kids with spray paints, etc. Here is a summary of the scenarios contained within the book.

Deep and Dark – the investigators find a snuff film on the dark web, but one of a pretty girl getting mauled by a Fishman monster. Did the deep ones mess up and accidentally get filmed in this modern world where everyone has a camera phone or is it something else?

Eye of the Beholder – an art student goes missing while doing late night research in a museum with ties to the local university. Maybe it’s a coincidence that the museum just got in a huge statue from South America of a little-known death god called Thul’Cathul. Yep, total coincidence.

The Watchers – a woman living alone in an apartment in the big city notices that people are watching her. Following her. They even broke into her home. But why? What do they want and how far will they go?

A Whole Pack of Trouble – a group of film school students go to an isolated, abandoned, and reportedly haunted asylum to make a found-footage horror movie and make a fortune? Whatever could go wrong with that? Well, when the filmmakers go missing the investigators will have to find out.

A Cleansing Flame – People are dying by fire. No one knows why and no one knows how. When the latest victim is a friend to one of the investigators and an astronomer who reportedly made a recent discovery of note, it’s up to the investigators to put out these flames.

Visions From Beyond – Tommy is a friend who makes some new friends. That’s nice. Unfortunately those friends have a strange reputation, they get up to some bizarre practices, and then one night Tommy calls one of the investigators in terror, begging for help, then the line goes dead. What’s a friend and an investigator of the Mythos to do?

The book will be in PDF, ePub, Softcover, and hardcover formats and will be full colour.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Modern horror adventures for Chaosium Inc’s Call of Cthulhu’s 7e written for mature audiences. Stygian Fox Publishing purchased four titles from Miskatonic River Press and is bringing them back (read some of the details here). Judging by those titles, Stygian has an eye for quality horror and I expect these scenarios will be excellent.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * *

 

Something Is Wrong Here: A Roleplaying Game by Kira Magrann
Ends on Thu, October 4 2018 8:00 PM EDT.

 

“Uncanny surrealist roleplaying, inspired by TWIN PEAKS, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and the other dark works of DAVID LYNCH.

Something Is Wrong Here is a Roleplaying Game of uncanny surrealism designed by Kira Magrann. In this game you’ll play troubled humans who struggle with their dark pasts and inner demons in order to make meaningful, potentially healing connections with each other. At some small town diner with a neon sign, in a broken down car on the highway, in someone’s wallpapered living room, at the old roadhouse down the way, unsettling scenes of Americana unfold as the game heads down it’s inevitable nightmarish path.

This game can be played in one night, in the intimacy of your living room or a private convention room. The line between player and character is intentionally drawn thin, causing feelings to bleed from one to the other. This game is atmospheric, emotional, and personal. Don’t worry though players, there’s safety mechanics to guide you through these dreamy paths of the subconscious mind.

The game’s themes and characters are inspired by the horrific surrealism of David Lynch’s work, specifically the quirky and supernatural characters from Twin Peaks, the nightmarish identity confusion from Mulholland Drive, and the lurid truths that lie beneath mundane Americana in Blue Velvet.

all art by Elissa Leach
all art by Elissa Leach

Dark and Dreamy

With the Return of Twin Peaks last year I became re-obsessed with the spooky dreamlike worlds of David Lynch’s work. This game is an homage to those worlds, and is meant to evoke the same types of unsettling, horrific, and identity/reality questioning feelings. The characters struggle with their darker selves, the setting is surreal and Americana, and there aren’t any satisfying answers at the end of the story.

Much like a David Lynch film, this game has postmodern references to breaking the fourth wall. It encourages overlap between real life feelings and a character’s feelings. What this means is that it’s likely players will feel a little vulnerable playing this game. There are safety guidelines included about how to play with intention, and how to debrief with aftercare for any troubling feelings that might arise while playing this game. This allows players to experiment with these feelings, and explore them in play, with a safety net built into the game.

What Play is Like

Everything needed to play Something Is Wrong Here is on a deck of cards. The only props needed are a mirror and a box. Character costuming is optional, but generic enough for thrifted or piecemeal wardrobe elements to work. A few songs are integral to mood making but can be played on any device.

Something Is Wrong Here can be played in a living room or any private room where you can control the atmosphere. While embodying your character in a series of scenes, you’re encouraged to use the space either sitting or standing, since there’s no dice involved. Cards are where the characters, roleplaying prompts, and instructions for play exist. Play is a series of scenes that the Facilitator of the game will guide players through, just like a TV show or movie.

I’ve designed this game to be as accessible as possible to new players, so I’m hoping that other David Lynch fans who have never played a game like this before can easily play, or gamers who’ve never seen a David Lynch gig don’t have to worry about matching genre conventions.

The Facilitator is in charge of knowing the entire game, spoilers and all. Their job is to tell players of characters what scenes they’re in, keep time for the game, and explain the basic rules of what the players need to do throughout the game.

Players will act the part of troubled characters in a surreal America. Each character has a personality, goals, and relationships with the other characters. There are six characters to choose from, each with their own specific issues to work through and personality quirks.

There are Two Acts in the game.

Act One establishes the characters in the surreal Americana settings. Their goal during play is to try and evoke a certain emotion in each scene together. They have a list of emotions to portray collaboratively in this series of scenes, and after each scene a corresponding card is drawn. This card gives them some narrative power over the next scene they’re in, stealing this power from the auteur Facilitator.

Emotions are things like:

  • The feeling of something new on the horizon
  •  A genuine closeness

Narrative Control cards are things like:

  • In the next scene you’re in, you can’t quite hear what the other people are saying. Ask them to repeat things.
  • In the next scene you’re in, take over any part of the facilitator’s role that you like.

Mixed in-between these scenes are surreal interludes called Mirror Scenes. They allow characters to monologue about where they are internally, how they’re feeling, while looking into the mirror. Disturbing music plays.

Act Two takes a plot twist and contains a major spoiler, but it is reality changing for the characters. Scenes are then acted out with new sets of nightmarish cue cards that apply specifically to each character’s psyche, with haunting music. This is where characters, and players, decide the fate of their relationships with themselves and the other characters. It’s an internal emotional exploration, told on a supernatural stage reminiscent of red curtained stages and black striped floors.

The stats for this game are below.

  • Players: 5-6 + Facilitator
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Rating: 18+
  • Materials: Character Nametags, Game Cards, Music, Box, Mirror (floor length if possible), Drinks & Costumes (optional)
  • Keywords: Identity Confusion, Surrealism, Uncanny, David Lynch, Americana, Non-linear, Meta, Narrative Control, Unsettling, Emotional, Personal”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Kira Magrann has tapped a vain: David Lynch, the card-based RPG. There’s one card you can read with only a light tilt of the head [enlarged below] and, taken with the David Lynch muse, it tells you what you’re getting. What are you getting? The tea leaves say it’ll be a unique experience. That’s the genius of this game, it is more than a linear RPG, this is an atmospheric experience that you will think about as often as you ponder a David Lynch production. It is worth trying out.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links.

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
Freelancer for EN WorldKnights of the Dinner TableOpen Gaming Network, and the Tessera Guild.
Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Want to share news? Press releases? 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).

About Egg Embry

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press.
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